A combination of experience and youth has proved a winning mix for Shepard’s girls’ tennis team thus far.
Behind the veteran 1-2 punch of former South Suburban Conference champion Rhonda Habbal and Martha Turown, plus a set of junior twins and pair of freshmen who are fortifying the doubles ranks, the Astros captured their first four meets of the season. After defeating Bremen and Hillcrest in the opening week, Shepard continued its mastery over SSC Blue foes by knocking off Lemont (3-2) and Oak Forest (4-1) last Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
Habbal, who won her conference crown as a sophomore, and fellow senior Turown both claimed victories opposite the Indians to lead the way. Among the triumphs versus the Bengals was one at first-doubles by the tandem of freshmen Rachel Habbal and Brooke Zielke.
Also performing well in the early going has been the doubles duo of Kelsey and Taylor Domina, both of whom are in their second varsity campaign.
“The girls have definitely been playing at — and above — their potential and I really believe they’re going to get better and better as the season progresses,” Astros coach Kelly Myron said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to compete and start really challenging the higher-tier teams like Sandburg and Stagg. We’re off to a good start so far.
“One of Rhonda’s goals is definitely to take back the conference No. 1 singles [title] she won as a sophomore. I really want her to get that back. Both Rhonda and Martha are doing well for us so far.”
Myron said the emergence of Rachel Habbel and Brook Zielke wasn’t immediate, but it quickly became obvious the two girls would work well together.
“Brooke was a surprise for us — one of those very nice surprises,” Myron said. “We’ll take it. They’re both [normally] singles players, but they started to play together and I think they began to realize they had some chemistry.”
The Domina twins add depth at the No. 2 doubles slot while Mryon continues to work players in and out of the third-doubles position for the time being.
“Kelsey and Taylor won conference last year at second-doubles,” Myron said. “They’re very talented and a big part of this team, too.”
With matches scheduled for this week against Tinley Park, TF North and TF South, Myron hopes momentum can continue to be generated.
“We still have ground to take, but I like where we’re headed as a team,” she said.
Stagg split a pair of matches last week as it defeated Mother McAuley 5-1 on Tuesday but fell 4-3 to Lincoln-Way East in a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue match on Thursday.
No. 1 singles player Nicole Pamphilis was among the Chargers’ winners versus the Mighty Macs.
Lincoln-Way North was no match for Sandburg last Thursday as the latter breezed to a 7-0 SWSC crossover triumph. Leading the Eagles was first-singles player Natalie Schultz.
Stagg went 1-2 last week, with the win being registered against Oak Lawn (165-174) last Wednesday at Stony Creek.
Pinning losses on the Chargers were Andrew (176-186) last Tuesday at Palos Muncipal and Lincoln-Way Central (169-189) on Thursday at the Sanctuary. Both of those matches were SWSC crossover.
Shane Wright’s nine-hole score of 40 earned him medalist honors last Thursday and helped Shepard knock off Oak Lawn (191-229) in a South Suburban Conference Red dual at Water’s edge.
Wright and teammate Johnny Korbakes both carded 45s on Tuesday, but those weren’t enough to carry the Astros past Lemont. The Indians prevailed 173-184 in the SSC crossover.
Sean Ozinga’s round of 39 lifted Chicago Christian to an easy 167-213 Metro Suburban Conference East win over Ridgewood last Wednesday at Oak Meadows in Addison.
Sandburg (665) edged Normal University High by one shot for the team championship at Saturday’s Homewood-Flossmoor/Providence Catholic Invitational. The event was held on Green Garden’s Blue course.
Haleigh Biernacki’s 50 led the field as Stagg defeated Andrew 213-233 in an SWSC crossover dual last Tuesday at Silver Lake’s North course. The Chargers dropped another crossover, 191-224, to Lincoln-Way Central last Wednesday at the Sanctuary.
Sandburg kept flying high by beating Providence (164-176) last Tuesday at Woodruff in Joliet behind strong outings from Frankie Saban (38) and Emily Cosler (39). Saban’s 77 on Saturday was good for third place individually and keyed the Eagles’ team victory at the Homewood-Flossmoor/Providence Catholic Invitational.
Sandburg shot a cumulative score of 335.
BOYS’ CROSS COUNTRY
Shepard’s Caleb Washington (15 minutes, 37.78 seconds) was runner-up in the three-mile race at Saturday’s Plainfield Central Invitational. Only Joliet Central’s Raul Rosendo (15:36.27) was able to eclipse Washington’s time.
The Astros were fourth in the team standings with 103 points.
Sandburg lost 2-1 to Waubonsie Valley last Tuesday at the Best of the West Tournament hosted by Naperville Central. Dan Rohder netted a first-half goal for the Eagles (2-1).
Stagg dropped a 3-1 decision to the host Indians in the third-place match at Saturday’s Lemont Cup.