VALPARAISO | The Valparaiso girls tennis team may have won a sectional crown last season, but the Vikings came up short of their first goal of winning the Duneland Athletic Conference title.
Times No. 3 Valparaiso took its first step in accomplishing that goal this season, knocking off No. 4 Lake Central 4-1 in the DAC-opener for each team.
The all-senior No. 1 doubles team of Brooke Sever and Caitlin Kennedy set the tone with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Lake Central’s Andjela Jovanovic and Jeannine Toth.
Valparaiso’s No. 3 singles senior Rachel Willing posted a 6-0, 6-0 win over the Indians’ Jory Swider.
“We didn’t get the job done last year and with a majority of seniors on our team, we’re looking forward to working toward a conference title this season,” Sever said. “As seniors, we’re taking more of a leadership role.”
The Vikings (3-2, 1-0) left little doubt which team was superior on Thursday afternoon despite a driving wind that played havoc with every element of the game. Serves went sideways, returns blew across the court and strategy nearly went out the window as both teams battled the windy conditions.
“The wind caused me to have to slow down a little bit, and I hate having to do that,” Valparaiso sophomore Madisen Kammerer said.
While the wind affected each team, neither used the weather as an excuse, especially Lake Central. The Indians (6-2, 0-1) lost 5-0 to Valparaiso last season before graduating a bulk of the varsity roster.
Coach Bryan Szalonek was encouraged by the effort he saw from his squad on Thursday, especially freshman Kristi Tinsley. The No. 1 singles player beat Valpo’s Rachel Crookston 6-3, 6-0 to improve to 8-0 this season.
“These girls have really bought in to what we’re coaching this season,” Szalonek said. “I’ve got seven freshmen in the program and they’ve really blended in nicely with the rest of the team.”
Kammerer delivered Valparaiso’s clinching point with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Lake Central’s Navneet Kaur at No. 2 singles. Valpo’s No. 2 doubles team of Shannon Tucker and Marissa Weston wrapped up the afternoon by coming back from a 4-1 deficit in the second set to beat Emily Birlson and Sarah Dingman 6-2, 6-4.
“This was definitely a team win,” Willing said. “It’s definitely a good feeling to get the conference season started off right. As seniors, we want to finish this season strong and we can only do that as a team.”