FLOSSMOOR | There is no irony in Allison Lessner's nickname, none of that calling the big kid "Tiny" sort of thing.
"I call her Allison 'The Inconvenience' Lessner," Homewood-Flossmoor tennis coach Don Baron said.
That's not all he calls his senior captain and No. 1 singles player.
"Let's see," said Lessner, perched Monday on a windswept bleacher beside H-F's North courts, "There's 'No B.S. Les,' 'Les is More' … I like 'Les is More.'
"My game is not an aggressive game, but I can win a lot of matches by frustrating people."
She'll get a chance starting Thursday at the state tournament. Lessner will be making her fourth straight appearance for the Vikings, but first as a singles player. Though Lessner has a tough draw — she wasn't, despite her coach's hopes, seeded and drew a 17-32 seed as a first-round opponent in Benet's Leah Tzakis — she's taking a 22-6 mark into the meet, along with a reputation for patience.
"She makes you work. … She's stingy," Baron said. "She'll run down a lot of balls, make you hit a lot of balls out of your comfort zone."
That may bode well for a state meet that could already be outside of most comfort zones. The weather forecast for Buffalo Grove, headquarters for a tourney spread out over 14 north suburban sites, calls for double-digit winds and temperatures in the 40s today and Friday.
The Vikings are taking two singles players and two doubles teams to the meet. Timara Maxwell and Sophia Osabuohien (28-5) earned a 9-16 seed in doubles after winning three matches in their state debut last year. Kaela Mack and Brittany Henry (22-4) are a first-time state duo as Mack partnered with Lessner a year ago. Freshman singles player Haleigh Porter (20-1) grabbed a 17-32 seed.
The forecast, if anything, heightened the Vikings' collective anticipation.
"This team really conditions hard," Maxwell, a junior, said.
"At sectionals, you could really see it," said Osabuohien, a sophomore. "Other teams just weren't willing to play through the conditions, to hack it out."
Baron likes his No. 1 doubles team's chances, saying, "They're peaking at a good time.
"Let's hope they stay hot. They're very aggressive, they have a lot of shot-making ability. If they're playing well, anything can happen. But the thing about that aggressive style, if it gets going the other way, it can come apart in a hurry."
Lessner isn't likely to hurry through anything at this state meet.
"I've been waiting three years for this," she said. "My first three seasons, the best girls on the team wanted to play singles, so I had to go play doubles. I finally get to play what I'm best at."
Actually, Lessner's best might be in the classroom. Her class rank at H-F is No. 10, she's got a 3.93 grade point average and she scored a 34 on the ACT. She's not planning on playing tennis in college.
"I would be limiting myself to play tennis in college," she said. "I'd love to be on a club team wherever I go, but I want to concentrate on my studies."
After this weekend, that is. Lessner hasn't had a ton of success at state so far, winning one match in the main draw in 2010 and one in the consolation bracket last year.
"I've been focusing on this tournament, this week, the whole season," she said. "Knowing this is my last state tournament, I think I can show much I've improved — even over just this season."