Written by Dennis Mahoney.
Following a series of tough doubles losses to open the season, Olivia Luby and Kate Kremin were just happy to earn a victory in Evanston’s 5-2 team triumph at Niles West in Central Suburban League South division action.
But the duo couldn’t help looking ahead, either, after defeating Niles West’s Kristine Park and Andra Sabou by a 6-3, 6-2 margin in a matchup that had postseason implications for all of the players on both sides in singles and doubles.
Achieving head-to-head regular season wins against teams that are lodged in the same sectional tournament field will definitely have an impact when it comes to postseason seeding. Earning a top four seed for the Niles North Sectional tourney --- and living up to that seed --- could bring the Wildkits their first qualifiers for the Illinois High School Association state tournament since the 2006 season.
And now that the IHSA has switched perennial power Loyola Academy to another sectional grouping, one obstacle has been removed. Now, the Kits hope to take advantage of that perceived opening.
“We did get off to a slow start, because when you’re playing No. 1 you’re playing against much better competition,” said Kremin, a sophomore who teamed up with Luby at the No. 2 singles slot halfway through last season. “But today we played loose and we were aggressive at the net. We’re playing a new I formation (one player at the net, one at the baseline) this year and it’s really working for us.”
“Now that Loyola has left the sectional, we think we’re going to have a better chance to get to State,” added Luby, a senior. “We haven’t had much luck against Loyola in the past. But I think Kate and I have bonded more as a team this year, and we’re more relaxed and more confident as a team. And when we play our biggest competition I think we’re more composed out there during the tough points.
“It’s scary at times playing this new formation, because you’re trying to put more pressure on the other team, but there’s also more pressure on your (to make a play). This is only our second win as a team, but we’re starting to get it together. We knew Niles West would be some of our biggest competition at the sectional.”
Evanston swept all five doubles matches against West and sophomore Abby Moore added a singles victory, topping Analise Vujica 7-5, 6-1 at No. 2 singles after trailing 3-0 in the first set. Wildkit winners included the teams of Becca Wagner/Isabel Avery over Nancy Ho/Smita Jain 6-4, 6-2; Joan Gibbons/Olivia Schultze over Anna Chlopek/Cassie Bergman 7-5, 7-6 (4); Rachel Clemens/Sam Mulica over Lucy Rees/Monica Hochberg 6-3, 6-3; and Izzy Aurichio/Lily Dube over Outon Ishay/Kelly Kaufman 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
The development of Kremin and Luby at the top of the doubles ladder, as well as the rest of the squad, is partly due to head coach Joyce Anderson’s insistence this year that all of the Wildkits’ doubles hopefuls pick their game up a notch and leave the baseline behind.
“This is my fourth year in the program, and my third as head coach, and I just decided this year they were ready to use new strategy,” the coach said. “Watching them play on the baseline is boring tennis. I’d rather have them go for a shot than be that conservative. We call it playing ‘real’ doubles. They’re all playing much better at the net and we’re able to change things up and use different strategies.
“We’ve played a really difficult schedule so far and that’s one reason Olivia and Kate don’t have a better record. There’s never an easy match at No. 1 doubles. But they probably would have lost to that Niles West team last year, and they’re a lot more experienced now when it comes to playing the tough points.
“That was a big
win for them as far as the sectional goes. I’m looking ahead a little --- but I
hope they’re not. Having Loyola out of there probably doesn’t make Loyola
happy, but it does open things up for everybody, especially us. It’s great, and
I think it makes sense geographically, too.”