Freshman takes sectional title in unconventional tennis season
Including a sectional championship for freshman Lilliam Dockal, the varsity girls tennis team placed fourth overall at sectionals.
Dockal qualified for state, placing second in conference and first in sectionals, but there was no state tournament this year.
“The season was good,” Dockal said. “I had fun meeting new people.”
This year, the girls varsity tennis team was led by seniors Lazaria Belcher and Hana Dempsey. “This year was different because we really had to work hard to stay positive and energized as a team because COVID was affecting our season. We just tried to focus on the fact that we were lucky to even be having a season at all,” Dempsey said. Folding together returning leaders and up-and-coming talent, the social aspect was a big part of the season for each and every player and the coach as well.
“I feel like this season made our program grow closer,” coach Tricia Detig said. “I enjoy traveling to different schools with the team. It gives us not only an opportunity to bond and connect on the bus rides but I also have the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with players when they finish up their matches.”
One of Dockal’s favorite moments with the team was, “after sectionals on Friday, we stopped at Culver’s and we were waiting for the food and we were talking.Then the worker knocked on the window and our coach got so scared she jumped up and yelled,” Dockal said. “She’s the best.”
With an unusual year, it had changed sports seasons in many ways. In the beginning of the season, no one was sure there would be a season for tennis. Luckily, the IHSA announced that fall sports that didn’t have much contact were still able to continue their season, including tennis. “It gave everyone an opportunity to step away from the computer screen and socialize with others. In the past, players would complain about practices and ask to leave this early,” Detig said. “This year, players were begging to stay longer and did not want practice to end early. People were even willing to attend early morning and weekend practice.”
Throughout the season, the team reflected on how they played after each and every game, hoping to make the team stronger. “Every player on varsity has a notebook that they keep during the season. They are encouraged to write it in before their match to document how they are feeling going into the match that day. Later on, we reflect on how they were feeling and what they ate that day to see if that influenced their performance. In addition, we gather in a team huddle before a match to get everyone pumped up and provide last minute advice,” Detig said.
“This season has had a variety of obstacles compared to seasons past. We were limited to competing with teams in our COVID region, which led to many cancellations and fewer matches during our season. In addition, there was no state tournament this year. This was especially disappointing since we have a state qualifier on our team,” Detig said. “Overall, COVID precautions and stress made it very interesting. We had to be careful both on and off the court and make sure we remained healthy.”