Girls tennis | sectional preview

Valparaiso's Willing a crucial part of tennis team's success

2013-05-14T17:15:00Z 2013-09-16T19:26:13Z Valparaiso's Willing a crucial part of tennis team's successJim Hunsley jim.hunsley@nwi.com, (219) 548-4356 nwitimes.com

Rachel Willing remembers sitting in the stands watching her big brother Collin play tennis for Valparaiso.

"I went to some of his matches and just saw how passionate he was about the game," Rachel said. "I wanted to follow in his footsteps and take that passion to the court."

Willing first picked up a racket in eighth grade. Now a junior, she is 24-5 in two prep seasons of singles play for the Times No. 1 Vikings, showing that same passion she admired in her brother.

"She's also a very determined player, willing to work hard for each point," Valparaiso girls coach Tim Shideler said. "She's not in a hurry. She's a very steady player. She looks forward to whatever task you give her."

She was 14-2 at No. 3 singles as a sophomore. This season, she lost to Highland's Vany Madrigal at No. 1 singles, went 8-1 at No. 2 — suffering her lone loss Monday against Munster and is 2-1 at No. 3.

Injuries and illnesses with twin sisters Kelly and Caitlin Kennedy — the team's No. 1 and No. 2 singles players — have forced several lineup changes this season. Willing has been a willing participant.

"Whatever is best for the team, I'm willing to be there," Willing said. "I don't mind not knowing where I will play. I just give it my all."

Willing worked with her brother as she learned the game over the past several seasons. The pair even taught lessons together through the parks department.

"I think it was very helpful to her to have him as a mentor," Shideler said of Collin Willing, who played varsity singles his senior season. "She's gained a lot of knowledge."

A recent change of strategy has also helped her develop those skills. A season ago, she was more inclined to just lob the ball back and wait for a opponent's error. Playing tougher competition at No. 1 and No. 2 made Willing realize she needed to alter her style.

"I don't like playing the other player's game," she said. "I might hit a few lobs, then I'll mix in a fast shot just to throw them off.

"I want to control the tempo."

That could be the key in today's first-round match at the Portage Sectional with No. 3 Chesterton, who defeated the Vikings 3-2 in the regular season. J.J. Lee staved off a match point to edge Willing 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 at No. 3.

Once again, No. 3 could be the game-clinching point of the match — and Willing appears ready for the challenge.

"I'm just going to go out with a clear mind," Willing said. "I'm not going to psych myself out. I'll just play it a point at a time. Hopefully it will work out."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Fan Poll

Loading…

Which school has the area's best girls soccer team?

View Results

Follow your school

Duneland Conference

Chesterton Trojans
News
Crown Point Bulldogs
News
Lake Central Indians
News
LaPorte Slicers
News
Merrillville Pirates
News
Michigan City Wolves
News
Portage Indians
News
Valparaiso Vikings
News

Greater South Shore Conference

Bishop Noll Warriors
News
Calumet Warriors
News
Lake Station Eagles
News
Michigan City Marquette Blazers
News
North Newton Spartans
News
River Forest Ingots
News
Wheeler Bearcats
News
Whiting Oilers
News

Great Lakes Athletic Conference

Clark Pioneers
News
Gavit Gladiators
News
Hammond Wildcats
News
Morton Governors
News

Hoosier Conference

Rensselaer Bombers
News

Northwest Crossroads Conference

Andrean 59ers
News
Griffith Panthers
News
Highland Trojans
News
Hobart Brickies
News
Kankakee Valley Kougars
News
Lowell Red Devils
News
Munster Mustangs
News

Northwestern Conference

Lew Wallace Hornets
News
Roosevelt Panthers
News
West Side Cougars
News

Porter County Conference

Boone Grove Wolves
News
Hanover Central Wildcats
News
Hebron Hawks
News
Kouts Mustangs/Fillies
News
LaCrosse Tigers
News
Morgan Twp. Cherokees
News
South Central Satellites
News
Washington Twp. Senators
News
Westville Blackhawks
News

Independents

Bowman Academy Eagles
News
Calumet Christian
News
Campagna Academy
News
Covenant Christian Knights
News
E.C. Central Cardinals
News
Hammond Baptist Swordsman
News
Luther East Eagles
News

Chicago Catholic League

Mt. Carmel Caravan
News
Seton Academy Sting
News
St. Francis deSales Pioneers
News

Chicago Public League

Washington Minutemen/Minutewomen
News

East Suburban Catholic

Marian Catholic Spartans
News

Metro Suburban

Illiana Christian Vikings
News

River Valley Conference

Beecher Bobcats/Ladycats
News
Illinios Lutheran Chargers
News

South Suburban Blue

T.F. North Meteors
News
T.F. South Rebels
News

Southland Athletic Conference

Bloom Twp. Blazin' Trojans
News
Crete-Monee Warriors
News

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings
News

SouthWest Suburban Red

Thornridge Falcons
News
Thornton Wildcats
News
Thornwood Thunderbirds
News

Featured Businesses