It’s appropriate that, in the days leading up to a new school year, several of my recent articles have dealt with new things that impact local sports.
A week ago, a piece ran on the resurfaced tennis courts at Morris Community High School. I talked with four ladies — Nancy Bauer, LeeAnn James, Jennifer Martello and Carol Robinson — who are part of a group that plays on the courts almost daily.
The four were thrilled with the new facility. They made that very clear during the few minutes I spent with them. But knowing that they won’t soon be able to play as often as they’d like when school is back in session and the MCHS girls team is regularly practicing and playing, they weren’t quite satisfied.
“You’ve got to put in that the city needs to redo the other courts,” one said, referencing facilities at Goold and McKinley Parks. “That way, we’ll have somewhere to go in September.”
MCHS Athletic Director George Dergo feels the courts could help the tennis programs compete at a “state level.” He says that the old surface wasn’t nearly as smooth as the ones the Redskins would play on during the state series, which put them at a competitive disadvantage.
While MCHS junior and 2012 state qualifier Leah Lines says she doesn’t really feel the old courts hurt the Redskins — “It’s more about the game than the courts you’re playing on,” she told me — she thinks the new ones could give Morris a psychological advantage.
“I used to think the nicest courts in the (Northern Illinois Big 12 East) conference were Rochelle’s,” Lines said. “When we went there for the first time, right when we got there and saw them, we just thought, ‘It’s going to be tough to beat Rochelle.’ They had that intimidation factor.
“Teams that would come to play us and see the old Morris courts probably wouldn’t think too much of us. With our new courts, maybe we’ll have that intimidation factor ourselves.”
One of the people that will likely be on the courts as much as anyone is the new Morris girls tennis coach, Becky Ortega, to whom I introduced you this week. Ortega spent last spring as an assistant to Keith Anderson, who was then in his first season as head coach of the boys tennis team at MCHS.
Along with the new courts, Dergo believes MCHS has the right coaches in place to continue the growth of its tennis programs.
“We’re trying to get tennis on the same path as our other sports. We want to be competitive on a state level,” Dergo said. “The last couple of years, we’ve made some good progress. With the coaches we have at the boys and girls levels, I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.”