Crystal Lake Central’s Evelyn Youel and Jillian Wallace slipped in, unnoticed, at last year’s girls tennis state tournament, and finished in the top 12 in doubles.
This year, there will be no anonymity.
“When you are seeded like that people are aware of you,” Tigers’ coach Katie Laktash said.
Youel and Wallace were awarded a 3-4 seed after an undefeated season that wrapped up with Fox Valley Conference tournament and Cary-Grove Sectional championships.
Also seeded in doubles are Crystal Lake South’s Kelsey Laktash and Rachel Rasmussen, who received a 17-32 seed.
Overall, from the area, six singles players and six doubles teams will compete at state beginning Thursday at sites across the northwest suburbs. Nearly everyone will not have to face a seed in the first round with the exception of Prairie Ridge’s Anna Kuechenberg and Mikaela McNally, who will see Danielle Burich and Erika Oku from Hinsdale Central, the other 3-4 seed.
Laktash said the seed was justified based on the season her doubles team had.
“They deserve it,” Laktash said. “They have that confidence. They believe in themselves.”
Not many expected Youel and Wallace to be seeded that high, especially the players themselves. When asked about her first reaction when she heard the news, Youel replied ‘disbelief.’
Wallace was equally amazed when she got the news from Laktash at the beginning of Tuesday’s practice.
“Jill was walking up and coach (Laktash) said ‘Jill three-four.’ “ Youel said. “Jill said what, practice is from three to four?”
“It’s so weird,” Wallace said. “I was going to be so excited with a five-eight (seed).”
Youel and Wallace will face some tough competition in the first round at state. Their opening match is against Glenbard South’s Jenna Brambora and Rachel Rettger, who placed second at the Downers Grove South Sectionals.
In the sectional championship, Brambora and Rettger lost to Glenbard West’s Drew Menzel and Grace Norgaard, a 17-32 seed, in three sets.
Youel and Wallace know that there are potentially lower seeded and even unseeded teams with the potential to knock them off. They should know, they were not seeded last year and beat two seeded teams at state.
“Don’t underestimate anyone,” Wallace said. “We were in their place.”
For Laktash and Rasmussen, getting seeded was a surprise. Gators coach Don Nead said it was deserved, because of the season they had. Laktash and Rasmussen were 29-4 this season with two of those losses coming against Youel and Wallace at the FVC and sectional tournaments.
Laktash will be making her third trip to state in doubles, the previous two with South grad Rachel Siemon. Rasmussen will be playing at state for the first time.
“I was really surprised,” Rasmussen said about getting seeded. “I’m just excited to be going.”
Even with the seed, Laktash said they have no pressure heading into state. Their goal was simply to make it.
“Just go and give it our all,” Laktash said. “We don’t have anything to lose.”