After never winning a conference title until two years ago, the Alleman Pioneers girls tennis team seeks a three-peat this fall.
And at least one Pioneer firmly believes they can do it.
Noely Baumann, the lone senior on this year’s team, returns along with doubles partner Lauren Hird. The Pioneers also bring back the reigning Western Big Six No. 1 singles champion, junior Lily Schoeck, who just won the Schaumburg Invitational No. 1 singles title on Saturday.
The Baumann-Hird duo won a Class A sectional title a year ago and finished in the top 12 at state while Schoeck finished third at sectionals and also placed top 12 at state. Their contributions helped the Pioneers to a third-place team finish at state.
“If we really put our minds to it and try hard enough, we can really succeed,” Baumann said.
The Pioneers, 3-0 so far this year in duals after going 14-0 a year ago, lost three of their top six players from last year, giving coach Leslie Hird some concern. But Baumann seems sold on the newcomers.
“There’s a lot of great players that came up,” she said. “I think we will do great with them. I think they are going to be amazing.”
Even Hird likes their talent, though she points out they have big shoes to fill.
Sophomore Brooke McKeown reached the finals of the Schaumberg tourney’s No. 2 singles bracket last Saturday before taking second.
“They are young and have a lot of growth potential,” said Leslie Hird.
Hird listed senior Emma Williams, freshmen Sydney Anderson and Lucy Rector plus sophomore Hayley Hoffman as promising varsity newcomers. Senior Cloie Jennings also returns.
Perhaps a big boost to the entire team is Alleman’s rise the last two seasons, all under Hird, who is now in her third year at her alma mater.
“The strength is those three girls have really invaluable state experience,” Hird said. “All three ended up in the top 12.
“Just the fact that they played so many matches and each of them won several rounds and went deep into the final day. That kind of experience is huge for us.”
“It’s a really big boost,” she said. “It’s what’s driving us to get better and compete harder, so we can get further."
Moline young, talented: The big test in the conference this year could come from Moline, which has two freshmen that are expected to lead the Maroons, Monika Burski and Lauren Myers. Matti Brower is another promising Moline newcomer.
Moline coach Jeff McCracken knows his team is young and inexperienced but also thinks there's plenty of potential.
"This group of freshmen have been on the radar for a while," McCracken said. "They have taken lessons and played USTA tournaments since they were little girls, so they know how to play."
McCracken admits there's a lot for the young team to learn, such as adjusting to the daily grind of varsity practices plus competition and high school classwork, but he likes their attitude.
“They are eager and working hard to improve,” he said.
United Townshp is lead by returning starters junior Kaitlynn Hanson and senior Shikha Adhikari. Coach Diego Cross expects his team to compete.
Everyone will get a better idea come Oct. 7 at the UTHS tennis courts when the Big Six tourney takes place.
Moline hires new girls soccer coach: The Moline Coal Valley School District approved at its monthly board meeting Monday the hiring of former Assumption girls soccer coach Jonathan Dreasler as its new head coach. Dreasler takes over for Rick Sanchez, who was coach for the past 21 seasons.
Assumption was 29-13 in Dreasler's two years there, making the Iowa state tournament twice, winning a title in 2014.
Dreasler is familiar with the Big Six, though it's been a while. He was an assistant varsity coach at Quincy, with his team winning the Big Six title in 2009. A St. Ambrose University grad, the teams he assisted on at Quincy won regional titles in 2009 and 2011 and a sectional title in 2011.