LANSING | The Illiana Christian girls tennis team that competed in last weekend's Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional barely resembled the squad that compiled a 17-2 regular-season record.
Because of the annual senior class trip to Washington, D.C., the team's seniors were unable to participate in the postseason.
That didn't slow down the Vikings.
Despite the disadvantages of playing with new doubles partners and being largely unseeded, Illiana still qualified five players for the state tournament: Rachel Blaauw and Anneke Knot at doubles, Lindsey Kotynski and Paige Van Wolde at doubles and Zhavia Gray at singles.
"I was surprised," said coach Rob Lagerwey. "I never anticipated getting five people to go to state. I think this really showed the depth that we had. I thought that was our strength from the beginning of the season, and I think it absolutely bore out in sectionals."
Blaauw and Knot finished third at the sectional, despite playing just one match together this season.
Blaauw had been the Vikings' No. 2 singles player all season, while Knot had split her time between singles and doubles. But forced to put together an impromptu lineup with much of the team missing, Lagerwey paired the two.
"Anneke and Rachel, I knew they were good singles players. How they would work together as a doubles team was a bit of an unknown, but I thought they would have a chance."
Nicknaming themselves Power and Finesse, Knot (power) and Blaauw (finesse) won four of five matches to qualify for state.
"When we're both on our game, we play together really well," Blaauw said."Plus we're like best friends, so we get along really well."
The team of Kotynski and Van Wolde also defied expectations (and seeding) in qualifying for state.
Though the tandem of juniors had partnered as freshmen, each had played the entirety of the 2010 season with a senior before reuniting at the sectional.
"We already kind of knew how each other played, and we worked well together as freshmen," Kotynski said.
"We were really surprised," said Van Wolde with a laugh. "We went into it thinking maybe we would win one match."
While junior Zhavia Gray will look to improve on her last two state performances this weekend in Mt. Prospect, the four Vikings who qualified at doubles all agree they are playing with house money at this point.
"We don't know what it's going to be like," Knot said. "We're just going to go there and do our best and hopefully laugh a little bit along the way.
Homewood-Flossmoor, which won its 28th consecutive sectional title, will send six to the state tournament.
Adesuwa Osabuohien, Danielle Dixon, Colleen Kenney and the doubles team of Faith Huckabee and Dana Shannon all have prior experience at the state level.
Freshman Allison Lessner, Kenney's doubles partner, is the lone Viking newcomer at state as H-F looks for a top-10 finish.
Marian Catholic freshman Gaby Rosales, who took second at the sectional behind Osabuohien, and Crete-Monee senior Dana Drew (fourth at Lincoln-Way East Sectional) will also compete this weekend.