The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls tennis team is well aware of what they're up against heading into the regular season. All the Huskies have to do is take a look within their own league, the West Suburban (Silver) Conference, and they'll find perennial state powerhouses Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township at the ready. Last year, the Red Devils and Lions finished second and fifth, respectively, in the state. Coupled with the Huskies tenth place finish at state, it's apparent that the West Suburban (Silver) Conference is the premier girls tennis league in the state.
Daunting conference schedule aside, the Huskies are confident taking on any team this season, and with good reason considering their stellar 2012 campaign.
The Huskies finished third in the conference race last year along with its aforementioned tenth-place showing at the state tournament. OPRF will build off that success by featuring its outstanding No. 1 doubles team of senior Tess Trinka and junior Taylor Arends. Trinka and Arends, who went 31-6 in 2012, garnered sixth place at state and third in the conference last year.
"Last year, it was definitely about learning the ropes of playing together and figuring out our strengths," Trinka said. "This year, it's going to be all about expanding on that familiarity and continuing to improve."
The Huskies also return top singles players in seniors Jasmine Owens (16-5), Hannah Gibson (17-15), and Katarina Vasic (3-4). Owens took third place in singles at the West Suburban Conference tournament in 2012. OPRF only lost two players to graduation with the rest of the team back in action this fall. Welcoming back such a tight-knit and talented core of players bodes very well for the Huskies.
"We're all very familiar with each other already," Arends said. "It's not like we're just starting off together. We've been there for each other for a long time which helps a lot."
While tennis isn't always perceived as a team sport, the girls on the OPRF squad stick together and always cheer each other on.
"I've had such an amazing experience on the tennis team," Trinka said. "It's so great because we come together even if we're not playing the same match together. I'm excited for this year's team and for Taylor and myself to be playing together again. I'm hoping that we do just as well if not better this year."
The biggest hurdle for the Huskies every year essentially begins and ends with Hinsdale Central, the conference's paradigm of consistent excellence. Although the Red Devils have won the conference crown 15 years in a row, the Huskies hope to end that amazing run of success this fall.
"My number one goal is to beat Hinsdale [Central]," Arends said. "To finish top three in the conference again would be great, and to finish top ten in state again would be phenomenal. I have pretty high hopes for us.
"If we beat Hinsdale Central, we should win conference. If we're consistent the entire season with our one thru three doubles and one thru three singles, we will be successful."