Girls’ tennis remains unmatched with sectional win

Jonas Evans, staff writer

The South varsity girls’ tennis team finished sixth in the state last season but Head Coach Megan Ahlgrim and her team weren’t sure if a season would happen this year. The team’s athletes had their worlds flipped upside down by the effects of Covid-19. However, the tenacity of the girls shined bright with a sectional win, and what would have been another attempt at a state run in the 2020 season.

In August, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced that no fall sport would have a state tournament to reduce the threat of Covid-19 infections among athletes. This mandate included girls’ tennis, which meant the seniors, like senior Captain Elizabeth Hoo, would play their final high school season without a chance to be state champions.

“I’m definitely disappointed that there [was] no state for my final year,” Hoo said. “I think as a team we [had] to try  and make the most out of the situation.”

Hoo has been a varsity team member for all four years of high school. Ahlgrim praised her as the top singles player for most of her career at South, handling the competition and pressure that comes with that number one singles position with ease.

“I’m consistently impressed with [Hoo],” Ahlgrim said.  “She went above and beyond any [level] I had ever even anticipated her to play at. The interesting thing about tennis is you’re out there by yourself on the court and being at number one singles player is never an easy position because you’re playing against essentially the best competition in this area.”

Ahlgrim is in her second year of coaching the team. She played for her high school tennis team in Illinois and then went on to Division three college tennis at Hope College. Ahlgrim enforced many new rules because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but she said the level of play from her team was not affected.

“I’m very impressed with how the girls played this season, especially knowing that we had a couple unforeseen changes and adjustments,” Ahlgrim said. “I think overall I’m very impressed with how the team was able to adapt to a very different looking season and still come out with the best tennis that they were able to play.”

Junior Jenna Horne has played in every state tournament since her freshman year. After playing singles her first year, she switched to playing doubles with senior Elle Stewart. Horne and Stewart went on a run in state last year, finishing 9th in doubles. Horne said that not having state playoffs to compete in did not change the mindset of the team this season.

“It really stinks that there was no state tournament because that’s the  kind of thing that you’re working towards the entire season,” Horne said. “But, we [approached] the season like [we had] that goal to work towards.”

Horne and Stewart won the doubles sectionals tournament this season without losing a set. With Hoo winning third place in the singles tournament, GBS was able to win sectionals as a team. Apart from the good results, Ahlgrim found the team dynamic to be what made this team so special.

“This group of girls specifically has made a tremendous impact.” Ahlgrim said. “They are unapologetically themselves, and they are just hoot and a half. Even though some of them are going to stay, I think as a collective whole I’ll miss the personality blend of this season because they really know how to be loud. I think that that will be something that sticks in my head as a memory for sure.”