By Marty Farmer
Fresh off a 10th place finish at the IHSA state finals last season, the Oak Park and River Forest girls tennis team is perennially a rock solid program with high aspirations. The Huskies were rudely reminded, however, of their place in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference pecking order last Thursday (Sept. 12) when visiting Hinsdale Central cruised to a 6-1 win.
The Huskies' No. 1 doubles team of Tess Trinka and Taylor Arends defeated the Red Devils' tandem of promising freshmen, Erika Oku and Danielle Burich, 7-5, 6-2 in the best match of the day. Trinka-Arends, who went 31-6 in 2012, en route to a sixth place showing at the state finals, return as a savvy twosome poised to chase a state championship at No. 1 doubles this fall.
"Last year, it was definitely about learning the ropes of playing together and figuring out our strengths," Trinka said earlier this season. "This year, it's going to be all about expanding on that familiarity and continuing to improve."
Their win over the precocious Eku and Burich gives the Huskies' top doubles the early advantage in winning the conference title at that flight.
"Tess and Taylor are great players who are really good together," said Katarina Vasic, the Huskies' No. 1 singles player. "They are also very good friends, which I think helps them on the court."
The Huskies' No. 2 doubles team of Anna Rosa and Audrey Angelos put up a good fight in their match against the Red Devils, before falling to the experienced tandem of Katie Lee and Rugile Valiunaite 6-3, 7-5.
"Anna and Audrey had opportunities to win the second set but didn't get it done," OPRF head coach Fred Galluzzo said. "We knew we could be competitive at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles against Hinsdale Central."
Unfortunately, the Red Devils won the other five matches in convincing fashion by the following scores: (No. 1 singles) Hinsdale Central freshman Bella Lorenzini d. Vasic 6-0, 6-2; (No. 2 singles) Hinsdale Central sophomore Sophia Haleas d. OPRF sophomore Hanna Gibson 6-0, 6-0; (No. 3 singles) Hinsdale Central sophomore Sandra Keta d. OPRF senior Jasmine Owens 6-0, 6-1; (No. 3 doubles) Hinsdale Central's Rachel Ballantine-Alex Ritter d. OPRF sisters Caroline Cronin-Anne Claire Cronin 6-2, 6-0; (No. 4 doubles) Hinsdale Central's Mira Amin-Meghen Guenther d. OPRF's Dominique Walker-Kathleen Koogan 6-1, 6-3.
While Trinka and Arends are clearly the most accomplished players on the OPRF roster, the Huskies' top three singles players also have experience and more than a few wins on their side. Owens won 16 of 21 matches last season, while Gibson posted a 17-15 record and Vasic finished 3-4, limited by tendonitis in her wrists last season.
Hinsdale Central, which has won 13 state titles and finished as a state runner-up in 2012, featured five freshmen in its lineup of 11 players against the Huskies. Lorenzini looks the next great top singles player for the Red Devils.
"I used to hit with her at clubs," said Vasic about Lorenzini. "I didn't do so well in the first set, but I kind of played better in the second set. Overall, I don't think I played to the best of my ability.
"Hinsdale Central is a really good team," she added. "It's really good practice and competition for us. I think we have a good team, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens in conference."
The Huskies host Glenbard West on Thursday (4:30 p.m.) in another conference matchup. Other notable upcoming matches this month include a home date against Fenwick (Sept. 25/4 p.m.) and a serious road test at Lyons Township on (Sept. 26/4:30 p.m.).
Loaded at singles with state contenders Alex Chatt and Kristen Thoms, LTHS is viewed as the top challenger to knock off Hinsdale Central in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference. The Lions took fifth at state last year.