MAHOMET — For the first time in school history, the Mahomet-Seymour girls’ tennis team has won four straight matches. After starting the season 0-3, Alex Amatyleon’s squad has found their groove.
M-S whipped Watseka, Maroa-Forsyth, Lincoln and Urbana before earning a fourth-place finish at the Apollo Conference meet. The Maroa-Forsyth victory was especially impressive because they had been undefeated beforehand.
“I didn’t have any expectations,” Amatyleon said. “As we started to practice and I saw what I had, I was pleasantly surprised with our No. 1 and No. 2. I was very surprised by how quickly they listened and were able to implement little things that can end up really adding up to changing a game here and there. That can change a set and then can change a match.”
Annie Bao has cemented herself as the No. 1 singles player, and she’s taken her game to a whole new level. During the four-match winning streak, Bao didn’t lose. Then, when she went 2-1 and placed third in the Apollo Conference at No. 1 singles.
“She’s playing smarter; she’s playing high-percentage tennis,” Amatyleon said. “She’s keeping the ball in play. I would not be surprised if Annie made it to state this year. She’s had an amazing season.”
Bao isn’t the only Bulldog who has adopted Amatyleon’s style of playing high-percentage tennis.
Mrinali Kesavadas and Amalie Fried also went 2-1 to place third in the Apollo.
Britta Slupski, Emma Clements and Manvika Kohli went 1-2 to place fourth in the Apollo.
“It’s been a blast,” Amatyleon said. “It came to fruition in conference play. Our No. 4 singles (Slupski) nearly beat the No. 1 seed. She lost 6-3, 4-6, 4-6. All six girls in singles played the best that they’d ever played that I’d seen. They were aggressive they were smart and they moved their feet. That’s everything.”
Clements’ story embodies the entire M-S girls’ tennis team. Clements is a good athlete who plays both softball and basketball. But she had never played tennis until about six weeks ago.
Amatyleon taught her how to keep score and how to hold the racket properly, and Clement has flourished since then. She’s elevated to No. 5 singles already.
“She listens to everything I say,” Amatyleon said. “She executes everything I ask her to execute and I see her being top two or three next year in singles. I haven’t seen a rise like this. That’s a lot to ask for from a girl to hold a racket, understand a gap. She didn’t even know how to keep score! She’s a tremendous athlete. She has great hand-eye coordination. Being athletic and having the capacity to listen to exactly what I say and executing it without question is huge.”
The Bulldogs will compete against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley at 4 p.m. Oct. 15.
“I love coaching this team,” Amatyleon said. “I told them after our conference play that I was super proud of them. They don’t miss practice. They listen. They’re making friends on the team and they’re having fun. In the past we’d be like, ‘Well, we are going to Urbana, let’s see what happens.’ This time, I’m saying, ‘Hey girls, I don’t know what happened in the past, but today, we’re beating Urbana. And here’s how.’ I’ve given them positive feedback and strong reinforcement. They’re believing in the concept and they’re believing in themselves and I think it shows.”