Athletes on the courts, in the field

Red Devil badminton, soccer, tennis teams all expect strong starts to spring season

Red Devil athletes on the girls badminton and soccer and boys tennis teams have their sights set high for the season, with goals ranging from winning a regional championship to winning the state title.

This is third in a series of four spring previews.

Next week: baseball, softball and boys volleyball.

Girls badminton

First match: March 14 vs. LT/Lockport/WWS Quad (V 3-0)

Last year: 12th at state

Head coach: Katie Maley

Seasons as head coach: 13th as varsity coach, 15th year coaching at Central

No. team members: 16

Strengths: We have a lot of experience, which is good. I have a couple of girls on my team who have been on the varsity team since they were freshmen, so that is awesome. It really paved the way for them to learn how to play at these tournaments, have the stamina for these tournaments, be strategic. The have been playing No. 1 and 2 singles and No. 1 doubles. It’s really helped them. It was rough playing the top dogs, but now it’s helped them because they are the top dogs. Our other strength is they all love the sport. These girls are so committed to our team, so committed to badminton. They really do eat, sleep and breathe badminton. To have the passion for the sport makes you a better athlete and makes the team better as a whole.

Challenges: One, half our team are seniors, so we are going to be losing a lot of girls next year. The other challenge is I don’t know a lot of the girls since I wasn’t here last year (on maternity leave). It took a while to have a feel as to how these girls play, whose better at singles, whose better at doubles. I still don’t know 100 percent.

Who to watch: Our No. 1 doubles team is two juniors, Maria Jiao and a transfer, Rachele Cameli, from Hinsdale South. They are awesome. They are super fun to watch. They’re both really skilled. They’ve only been playing together since summer camp, but they have awesome chemistry on the court and great communication. My No. 1 singles player, Jessica Han, who has been on the team for four years. She’s really graceful on the court and has awesome placement. She’s really quiet, but she always hangs in there and does a really good job.

Outlook: Knock on wood, I think we’re going to do well. Obviously the West Suburban Silver Conference is really hard. They always have really good teams in it. In our conference I think our biggest challenge will be York, who was good two years ago. They had some young players last time I coached. I’m pretty confident that we’ll hopefully get some medals at the state tournament. I feel like my singles players will have earned it. This will be their fourth year going to state. My No. 1 and No. 2 doubles went to state last year when they were only freshmen (Jiao in singles). They all have experience at the state tournament.

Furthermore: I’m just really excited to be back. This is a really good group of girls and, like I said, this team loves badminton, so it makes my job a lot easier.

Girls soccer

First game: March 15 vs. Walter Payton Prep (V won 1-0)

Last year: lost in regionals to Morton (3-4)

Head coach: Tony Madonia

Seasons as head coach: 5th

No. team members: 21

Strengths: Leadership. We have three extremely involved and strong captains, who combined have 10 years of varsity playing experience. We’re really technical and prioritize defending.

Challenges: We play one of the most difficult schedules in the state. We play the New Triers, in the Naperville Invitational (with 70 to 80 percent of the teams you’ll find in the final 16), teams like that. When you’re playing a tough schedule, it’s always, as a coach, a challenge to help everybody see the bigger picture of why we are playing these hard teams. Sometimes we sacrifice a strong record because we’re aiming to prepare for the toughest teams in the state. Also, as a team, we’re pretty young.

Who to watch: Carter Knotts, she’s just a really fun attacking player. She also is a captain and she represents the school really well. She’s on Student Council, she represents the school on a principal’s committee. She’s a great kid and an extremely strong player. Ava Elliott is a center back. She’s been a defender for three years on varsity. She’s committed to play at IUPUI, a D-1 program. Cate McDonnell is a junior. She’s a really quick, strong, attacking player. This is her third year on varsity. Our goal scorer last night (March 15) was Claire Snodgrass. She’s a junior.

Outlook: I think we’re going to do well. There’s always ups and downs in a season, whether it comes in waves of wins and losses or just trying to figure out the identity of the team and the style of play. All in all, I say we should be pretty good and get past the regional championship this year and see how far we can go.

Furthermore: We have a really strong emphasis on representing the community well. Sunday we did the annual Julie Heidecke clinic. She was on the team here and at ISU and passed away in that tragic car accident. Her family is still really involved. Her future nieces and nephews will be going through the school. We had a really strong showing again.

Boys tennis

First meet: April 5 v. University High School Chicago

Last year: first at state, undefeated season

Head coach: John Naisbitt

Seasons as head coach: 14th

No. team members: 25

Strengths: They’re looking to be part of something special, another state title. We’re — and they’re doing it since the season started — embracing the notion of team. We’re going to win and lose this one by being a team. We’re going for the 8th (title) of 11 years, which is a very dominant period for us in the history of our program, any program. It only happened once in the 1970s, when it was Hinsdale Central again that won nine straight. We’re in the midst of a very nice run and to recognize it is to be responsible for it.

Challenges: We have a real challenge to live up to. We lost four amazing seniors that had been with us for four years. It’s really hard to replace them. They were playing as freshmen and sophomores — they were that dominant. We are now reloading. We like our team. To live up to what happened last year, where we were unscathed, with be tough, but that is our aspiration. Our two second doubles guys are now our sole state returners. Four newcomers to state will have to step in and get it

done in May.

Who to watch: Junior Alex Kotarski. Last year as a sophomore he came in third at state in doubles. He is now our No. 1 singles player and captain. He’s extremely talented. Sophomore Nathan Hernandez and his brother, junior Aidan Hernandez, they’re the brothers of Noah Hernandez who was a very good singles player for us. He won state as a freshman in doubles. Senior year he came in second to Mujtaba (Ali-Khan). He’s now at Brown University. We sure wish we could have him, but we have the next best thing. We have Nathan and Aidan and they are extremely talented. Winston Stangle, he is a sophomore and he is playing extremely well. He’s really wonderful. In practice he’s shown he’s someone we need to keep an eye on. Bodie Teuscher is a sophomore. He looks like he’s had a very good offseason. He’s a very strong player. Senior James Theriault was third place with Alex K. last year in doubles at state. He’s back as a doubles guy and he’ll clearly be a force to be reckoned with.

Outlook: Win state. That’s always our goal. We only have one goal. We don’t mess around. If we don’t get it, we’re disappointed. That’s the legacy of the great Jay Kramer. I think you need that to win. If you don’t have that, if you’re like, ‘Third place is great!’ I just don’t know if you’re going to get first or second. I think you rise to the level of your expectations.

Furthermore: Assistant varsity coach Bill Alex is a tremendous asset for the boys and girls varsity. He’s been here going on seven years and an absolute asset to us. His son, Peter, is now the junior varsity coach. Bill won a championship individually and as a team for Hinsdale Central. Peter got to the quarterfinals at state for Hinsdale South. We’re really happy to have two Alexes. I think it’s twice as good as one Alex.

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean