GENESEO — It wasn’t without adversity, but both the Alleman and Geneseo girls’ tennis teams had strong showings on Day 1 of the IHSA Class 1A Geneseo Sectional.
Alleman singles player Brooke McKeown collapsed from leg cramps in her second set against Geneseo’s Chloe Adams. After a 10-minute injury timeout, the senior Pioneer finished strong in a 6-1, 7-6 (1) win by tiebreaker to reach state singles for the first time.
“Amazing,” McKeown said of the feeling. “I’m literally crying I’m so happy. It was a really rough match with everything going on. I’m glad I fought off all the distractions and I’m really excited for (today).”
McKeown and Adams played in the last match of the evening by far, closing things out on a chilly court scattered with fans from both local teams.
“I’ve been wanting this all season, so I’m really happy that it’s finally happening,” said McKeown, who reached state doubles with Lucy Rector last year. “It’s a lot different than doubles, so I’m excited.”
McKeown’s doubles partner from last year was thrilled to watch her close things out.
“That was awesome, I was so nervous for part of the second set,” Lucy said. “I’m really happy she came out with the win and I’m excited for state.”
In Geneseo’s first time hosting a sectional tennis meet, the Lady Leafs sent through both doubles pairs. Third-seeded Mary Thomas and Emma Dunker dropped just four games in two matches to reach the semifinals and reach state for the second year in a row.
In today's semis, Geneseo’s duo will take on Alleman’s second-seeded pair of Lucy Rector and Kate Rector, who only dropped three games in two rounds.
“I feel like most of the pressure is off, but I still want to play hard (today),” said Dunker. “It feels good knowing we got to state (again).”
Thomas said it’s exciting knowing a pair of teammates will join them on their “walk of champions” at school before the state meet next week hosted by Buffalo Grove HS.
“We had to give it our best, but I’m really happy our teammates are with us,” said Thomas, who was confident in today’s chances against the Rectors. “I think we can beat them.”
Alleman junior Lucy Rector was happy her freshman sister will be joining her on her second state trip as a qualifier.
“I feel like we played really well. We were able to hit good ground strokes and volleys, and just come out with two wins,” Lucy said. “It feels really good.”
“That was my No. 1 goal this season,” Kate said of reaching state, “so I’m really happy.”
It took an upset of sorts for Geneseo’s Ava Bieneman and Alli Miller to punch their first state tennis tickets as the No. 5 duo — they topped a fourth-seeded pair from Peoria Notre Dame 6-0, 6-4. Geneseo’s duo advanced to face Dunlap’s No. 1 seed of Emily Yu and Katie San Jose when play resumes today at 9 a.m.
“It’s really special, because last year Alli and I just went as hitting partners,” said Bieneman, referencing their support of Thomas and Dunker from the sideline at state last year. “This year, knowing we both get to compete, that’s really fun.”
Geneseo’s No. 2 pair won 6-1, 6-0 in Round 1 over a Peoria Richwoods duo.
“It was actually kind of surprising,” Miller said of their Round 2 “upset” of a team they’d never played. “We came out to play, and we tried our hardest and we did it.”
2A Pekin Sectional: In singles, Moline’s second-seeded Monika Birski advanced to the semifinals to reach state singles after qualifying in doubles the last two years. She faces third-seeded Reese Williams of United Township, now a two-time state qualifier, in today’s opening match.
Moline’s second-seeded doubles pair of Lauren Myers and Sarah Gustafson also qualified for state by reaching the semis. Myers qualified for state doubles for the third year in a row.
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