LANSING | The decision for Illiana Christian tennis players Zhavia Gray and Rachel Blaauw was not an entirely easy one to make.
The seniors had to choose before the Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional whether to go with their senior classmates on the annual trip to Washington, D.C. last week, or stay behind and play in the sectional and possibly qualify for this weekend's state tennis tournament.
The class trip began on Oct. 11; both Gray and Blaauw decided to stay behind and play tennis.
Both Gray and Blaauw qualified for state.
A dozen local tennis players qualified for the state tournament, which begins today at 14 sites in the northwest suburbs. The singles and doubles championships will conclude on Saturday at Prospect High School.
Gray, a four-time state qualifier, said she had already visited the nation's capitol, as she has relatives who lived nearby. The senior stayed behind and took third at the H-F Sectional to qualify for state. She will open the state singles tournament today at Hersey against Nneka Onyejaka of Bolingbrook.
"I visit my relatives up there every summer, and we usually see things up there like the White House or the Washington Monument," said Gray, who is seeded in the 17-32 group. "I did miss my friends, of course, and I'm glad they had a good time."
For Blaauw, who qualified for state last year in doubles, the decision to play tennis or go on the class trip had an extra component. Her season-long doubles partner, Anneke Knot, opted to go on the class trip. Blaauw stayed, was paired with junior Lynnae DeJong at H-F and qualified in doubles for state by placing fourth at the sectional. Blaauw and DeJong will face defending state doubles champions Marika Cusik and Caroline Lorenzini of Hinsdale Central in the first round today at Elk Grove.
Like Gray, Blaauw had been to Washington D.C. before, which tipped her decision in favor of playing at the sectional tournament and ultimately at the state tournament for the second consecutive year.
"(Lynnae and I) only had a few practices together before sectionals," Blaauw said. "Now I think we've figured out our positioning, and we give each other advice, which is good."
Both Gray and Blaauw hope to have their best showing at the state tournament in this, their final chance. Blaauw went 1-2 last year, while Gray lost both her matches. Gray's best showing at state came as a freshman when she won two of four matches and survived until the second day of play.
"Part of how well they will do will depend on the draw," Illiana Christian tennis coach Rob Lagerway said. "I think if we see (Gray) play to the best of her ability, she can make it to the third day. She has the physical ability and she's got the shots; if she can be consistent with those, she could do it."