ST. CHARLES – Leah Puttin is the one known commodity for the Batavia girls tennis program.
The senior earned state experience at the last IHSA-conducted postseason big dance two years ago.
With normal doubles partner Bella Lins unavailable because of ACT testing, Puttin teamed with Kelly Thoman to deliver the first doubles championship at the Mary Carlson Invitational Saturday afternoon at St. Charles East.
The Bulldogs had three other champions in the eight-bracket format to earn a 56-54 team triumph over Benet.
The tournament was also conducted at Geneva and Batavia high schools as Naperville Central, which had the outstanding singles player in freshman Sophia Olaru, was third with 41 points; Wheaton North (41) was fourth, followed by Wheaton Warrenville South (37), St. Francis (30), St. Charles East (17) and Geneva (14).
“I think we built good communication with our chemistry early,” Puttin said after she and Thoman dispatched WW South seniors CC Huelskoetter and Leah Austin, 6-1 and 6-2, for the top doubles victory. “We were super aggressive and always poaching when we had opportunities.”
“I am super happy,” added Thoman. “I was really nervous going into this first doubles (tournament). I just never gave up.”
The Batavia third doubles partnership of Addison LaManna and Madelin Vieu, both juniors, was indispensable to the Bulldogs’ second invitational title in as many weekends with a third-set tiebreaker over Naperville Central duo Teah Rupp and Rebeca Jacobs.
“We had a lot of hard hitters today,” LaManna said of her opponents, “but we were hitting really well. Our presence at the net was definitely the best today.”
“There were definitely some moments,” Vieu said of potential tide swings in the championship match. “We kept stuff cross court; it was a really good game.”
Batavia junior Audrey O’Connell, in what proved to be a telling factor for the team title, denied Benet fourth-singles championship opponent Regan Roberts in straight sets for the Bulldogs’ third title.
Batavia fourth-doubles teammates Taylor Schneider and Hannah Schneider also survived a third-set tiebreaker for the Bulldogs’ final championship.
“We really felt coming in that we had a chance to win this,” Batavia coach Brad Nelson said of the Bulldogs’ first title in a decade-plus of appearances “We knew we had the depth to do it.”
The Bulldogs may also have very well earned a psychological edge in winning the tournament featuring four other DuKane Conference schools.
“We know the conference is going to be tough,” Nelson said.
St. Charles East coach Matt Bulman hopes to be back to full strength after his top-three athletes — state-qualifying doubles partners Carolline Donati and Snita Dhar as well as Audrey Jones, No. 1 at singles — were all taking the ACT test.
“I was really pleased,” Bulman said of his makeshift order. “Every single kid up and down the lineup competed until the last match of the day.”
The top singles draw appeared set for an epic championship match when Olaru and Benet freshman Clare Lopatka stormed to the championship without dropping a single game.
But Olaru rendered the final anti-climactic in continuing her immaculate run in the first set; Lopatka fought to the bitter end in dropping the second set 2-6.
“I just kind of used the wind to my advantage,” Olaru said. “When I was with the wind I would roll it higher and get it out of her strike zone.”
The prized freshman, however, was not overjoyed with her overall play.
“I think it’s a little shaky, especially with my serving during pressure points,” Olaru said.
Benet second doubles partners Claire Converse and Shane Delaney proved opposites can do damage.
A senior and freshman, respectively, Converse and Delaney dominated St. Francis’ Bryn Carroll and Bridget Rice, dropping only three games in their title match.
“What really worked well for us today is that we both played really aggressively,” Converse said. “We were driving the ball, and that’s ultimately what got us first place.”
“I never thought I could make it this far (as a newcomer),” Delaney said. “I am just having so much fun with Claire; it’s such an honor.”
Kaitlyn Lee, a former doubles state champion, anchored the Redwings’ top unit to third.
Kaylee Phillips’ 6-0, 7-5 victory in the championship match at No. 3 singles, held at Geneva, was the sole title for Wheaton North.