Goss: Harley Hutchison wins dandy singles final over Caitlin Shea
October 15, 2012 10:02PM
Joliet Catholic's Harley Hutchinson. | File photo
Updated: November 17, 2012 6:13AM
Joliet Township senior Caitlin Shea was on her game.
It did not take long for Joliet Catholic senior Harley Hutchison to realize there could be a problem.
“I had played Caitlin earlier this season and it went three sets, so I knew it would be tough,” the top-seeded Hutchison said of the singles final in Saturday’s Joliet Sectional, which was played at the Park Forest Racquet Club because of rain. “She literally did not miss a shot in the first set.”
Shea, the No. 2 seed, won the set 6-3, and Hutchison felt she had no recourse but to “wipe the slate clean. It had to be a new start. Her serves are so strong. I thought if I could hit the ball deeper and keep her serves going longer, it could get her to miss more.”
Hutchison came back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory that she hopes will help land a top-32 seed in this weekend’s state meet at Arlington Heights and other northwest suburbs.
“It definitely was awesome that first set,” Shea said. “I thought I had it. But I wasn’t making as many shots the second and third sets. She was hitting stronger and I wasn’t as good.”
“Caitlin just got a little tired,” Joliet coach Kit Gillman said. “She didn’t have the wind left in her sails.”
“I knew she was getting tired in the third set, so I had to keep doing what I was doing and keep my stamina up,” Hutchison said.
Although not directly involved, Bob Champlin, coach of sectional champion Lockport, could not help but notice the match.
“I kept glancing at it out of the corner of my eye,” Champlin said. “It was a great one. Those two girls are outstanding and should be successful at state.”
“It was a great match,” Joliet Catholic coach Mark Streitz said. “Harley has worked very hard year-round to get where she is.”
Hutchison did not play high school tennis as a junior.
“It was my recruitment year, the main year for college coaches to look at you,” she explained. “And I did commit to Bowling Green State.”
But after reaching state as a freshman and sophomore, she is excited to return. She won four matches in singles as a sophomore and “I want to live up to wherever I am seeded.”
She’s all business on the court, but there is an element of fun that goes with reaching state.
“The girls on our team come up and stay in our hotel room and we mess around a lot,” she said. “But it’s all focus when I’m on the court.”
Shea, who said she would like to play tennis at a Division III school, also finished second in the sectional to reach state as a junior, when Plainfield Central’s Ali Foster won the title. This year, Shea said she “got more excited about tennis. I have a new motivation to win. That’s why I think I did better against JCA than I did in the past.”
The sectional began Friday and played through the semifinals under the lights at Joliet Catholic. The championship and third-place matches at Park Forest, in singles and doubles, all were dandies. Regardless of how the top four finishers in both divisions fare at state, there will be fond memories of their hard-fought sectional showdowns.
In the doubles final, Lockport senior Kelsey Forkin and sophomore Kat Samardzija beat Providence junior twins Maggie and Kelly Ruane 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to help secure the team title for the Porters 25-20 over the Celtics, who went into Saturday with a shot.
The singles third-place match went to Lockport sophomore Caroline Plecik over Providence freshman Hannah Davis 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-1. For third in doubles, Joliet Catholic senior Alexis Bauer and freshman Nina Bertino beat Providence senior Jamie Noonan and junior Marybeth Galic 6-2, 7-5.
“That was one of our goals all season, the sectional,” said Champlin, whose team has won sectional in each of his three years. “It was very good competition.
“Our (No. 1) doubles team lost to the same Providence team in last year’s final and was excited to get to play them again. And it was nice that Caroline beat Hannah for third place. Hannah beat Caroline earlier in a dual meet.”
Champlin noted his second singles player, senior Samantha Pindak, and second doubles team, junior Brit Kupiec and senior Judy Stanford, also figured into the team title with victories earlier in the tournament.
Joliet Catholic’s Bauer, a state qualifier as a freshman and sophomore before missing out last year, teamed with Hutchison in doubles at the East Suburban Catholic Conference meet and won the title. Now she qualifies for state with Bertino.
“Our conference is very difficult,” Streitz said. “Harley and Alexis won our first doubles title since 1994. They beat Benet for the first time since 1994, and the Benet team was 50-0 prior to seeing our team.”
Bauer said she is unsure about playing in college; her choice will be based on academics. But like Hutchison, she is eager to return to state after a year away.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “There isn’t really any pressure or anything.”