I preface this column by proudly admitting I love tennis. It’s my favorite sport to play, follow and talk about. I grew up on a steady diet of watching legends like Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras and then pretending to be them while hitting countless tennis balls against the forgiving practice wall at Keystone Park.
Considering my passion for the sport, it’s baffling I never wrote about the OPRF and Fenwick high school girls tennis teams this season, which ended Oct. 20. Regrettably, a team or two can slip through cracks considering the number of sports we cover, but I certainly didn’t anticipate the fall season sans tennis.
So as one of my Fenwick teachers, Mr. DePaldo, often said during my prep days, “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.” That’s Latin for “through my fault, my most grievous fault.”
In other words, it means my bad, Huskies and Friars; I owe you a solid so here’s a review (albeit belated) of your respective seasons.
OPRF coach Fred Galluzzo had a senior-laden team this season. Emma Proctor, Maya Jamroz, Sophia Kreider, Elyse Kanagandram, Jane Belcaster, Cece Kwan, Alejandra Gennatiempo, Kayla Hawkins, Mary Lynch, Caroline Nations and Tess Pierce made up the large contingent.
In addition to plenty of experience and depth, the front end of the lineup flourished this season. The doubles team of Jamroz and Kreider had a terrific campaign. The tandem went 25-6 and advanced to the IHSA state quarterfinals.
While winning was rewarding for Jamroz, notably against New Trier at the Deerfield Invite and at the OPRF Sectional, she’s most thankful for the camaraderie among the players.
“I was so lucky that we had such an amazing and supportive team,” she said. “With all the stress of college applications during the tennis season it really helped having other seniors on the team. We were all going through the same thing. Knowing you are not alone in that process was comforting.
“Everyone was super-supportive of one another and we all helped each other get through a really stressful time. Our team is really tight knit and we had several pasta parties every year for team bonding.”
Proctor also enjoyed her senior season as the first OPRF singles player to qualify for state in four years. She went 1-2 at state.
“I had a lot of fun this season, especially going to state with Sophia and Maya,” Proctor said. “It was exciting to play at that competition level. The season went really well for the team because everybody got along and improved as players.”
The Huskies are even more interesting off the court. Proctor is a triplet, Kreider is an accomplished concert violinist with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Belcaster is an aspiring journalist who interviewed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last summer.
Friars fare well with depth
Guided by veteran coach Gerard Sullivan, Fenwick had a solid season with an 11-6-1 record, tournament titles at the Niles North/Niles West Invite and Glenbard South Quad, and a third-place showing at their conference tournament.
The Friars also notched impressive victories over St. Francis, Glenbard South and Carmel. Unfortunately, matches against top rivals like OPRF and Loyola weren’t completed due to rain.
According to Sullivan, this group was different from recent Fenwick teams.
“Unlike our past several [teams], this group didn’t have an obvious all-state player at the top,” he said. “This team had great depth and a strong core.”
Without an elite player like past Friars Haley Fakouri and Laura Gutierrez, several players assumed leadership roles this year.
Senior Kelly Chapman played both No. 1 singles and doubles, losing in the state-qualifying round in the former. Team captain Maggie Matthews also saw action in the top singles and doubles spots. Senior Bridie Owens had the most wins on the team. Other contributors included senior Bella Burdi, juniors Mary Heneghan, Grace McNamara, Abby Tymick, and sophomore Anna Dray.
At the conference meet, the doubles teams of Chapman/Dray, Heneghan/McNamara and Burdi/Owens all finished in the top three of their flight division and earned all-conference medals.
“Several players had competitive skills that allowed them to play even with or beat opponents at higher skill levels,” Sullivan said. “This was one of the best competing teams I’ve ever coached. In dual meets and at No. 2 spots and lower, we racked up more wins than usual. No team we played had it easy against us.”
Aside from matches, a few of the Fenwick players had the good fortune to meet ATP World No. 1 Novak Djokovic when he was in Chicago for the Laver Cup in September.