Illinois Valley tennis sees net gain despite season of difficulty
With one postseason match to go, Illinois Valley Community College women’s tennis coach Julie Milota can breathe a sigh of relief: It could have been much worse if her squad hadn't stepped up.
“This year we had some obstacles,” Milota told the Illinois Valley Times. “Out of the original lineup of recruits we had, we ended up losing about three kids that we’d planned on coming here. That happened during the first and second week of August, so we were left picking up the pieces. But I would say, considering all of that, these girls made some great strides.”
Despite finishing at 2-7 in the regular season, the team has some bright spots, like Lauren Giordano, a freshman who attended St. Bede Academy in Peru, Illinois.
“Lauren Giordano was a state long-jumper in high school and is very athletic,” Milota said. “She has all the inner workings of a great athlete but hadn’t played a competitive tennis match before this year. She has been working very hard to make the connections to get good at tennis. It’s hard to learn how to win; you can go through all the motions, but you’ve got to learn how to make the winning shot.”
Milota said she has seen a number of players who weren't expected to be a major factor step up this year.
“There are certain girls who we wouldn’t typically play as high in the lineup, who have had to step up, and they are rolling right along and enjoying the competition,” she said. “Really, we are playing pretty competitively. As a coach, you have to step back and realize you’re putting girls in a position that you wouldn’t usually put them in, but since you don’t have any other choices, you have to do it.”
The doubles team of Julia Browning and Hannah Warwick was put together out of necessity and performed surprisingly well, Milota said.
“I basically took one of our No. 1 players in Hannah Warwick and put her with Julia, because Julia is working with an ACL injury and her movement is limited,” Milota said. “She is a great volleyer, and it works really well. Hannah hits some really hard shots and sets Julia up, while not having to move a ton.”
While several players have had to step into new roles and deal with adversity, Allison Vargo has been solid throughouot. Milota said she came off a strong season last year, when she reached the semifinals at nationals, and will likely be seeded heading into nationals again.
Milota said that she feels the difficult season will help the team grow and improve and hopes that several members of IVCC will turn in solid performances at nationals in late October in Peachtree, Georgia.
“You can set up your schedule so you can win every match," she said. "But I would rather play tough matches and lose and learn more than win and learn nothing from not playing good competition. I think the team will be better prepared heading to nationals this way.”