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Highlanders prepared to do damage

Coran bounces back from only defeat with laser focus

Oct. 12, 2010

Mequon — The damage was done, the lesson was learned and no one really got hurt except one particular individual's ego and pride.

And that particular person, two-time state Division 1 WIAA tennis singles champ Aly Coran of Homestead, has mopped her brow, gotten back to work, and is seriously ready to make it three in a row as the Highlanders head into what Coran calls "the two best weekends of the year."

Coran suffered her first loss to a Wisconsin player in her three years of prep tennis when she was beaten in a three-set match by No. 2 seed and returning state runner-up Karyn Guttormsen of Kenosha Bradford in a tournament at Nicolet a few weeks ago.

It did not sit well with Coran, who spends her summers on the USTA regional and national circuits absorbing tough defeats, earning tougher wins and preparing for the fact that everyone in Wisconsin wants to beat her.

"I'm doing well with it," she said. "I'm going to try and use it to my advantage but we'll see what happens."

Team sweeps sectional

Coran led a perfect effort by the Highlanders in the sectional at Oconomowoc last week, where they won all seven flights.

In addition to the top state seed of Coran (26-1) in singles, the Homestead team of Carly Peck and Sophia Lococo (29-0) also earned the top spot in doubles.

Such was the respect for Homestead that Elizabeth Konon (29-0) earned the third seed behind Coran and Guttormsen in singles and the duo of Dani and Mardee Merar (32-1) earned the same spot in doubles. Corey Mattson (32-1) also earned a nine through 16 seed in singles.

It all goes back to the point that coach Jackie Egelhoff has been emphasizing all season.

"The team unity of this group has been fantastic," she said. "They are just so competitive with one another, but they're good about it. We just had a 10-point (super tiebreaker) drill the other day and though the play was fierce, there were still handshakes all the way around."

Further, right before the sectional started, co-captains Dani Merar and Mattson put everyone at ease with friendly little gift bags for everyone.

"It was really very sweet of them," said Egelhoff.

That kind of esprit des corps will make it very tough for opposing teams to crack the armor of the two-time state champion Highlanders as the individual tournament will actually just be a tune-up for the team state event, Oct. 22 and 23.

Play in the individual tournament will get under way on Thursday. Most of Homestead's players (all except Mattson) will get a first-round bye and start play at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison.

Championship matches will be around noon on Saturday.

Concentrating on her game

Coran wouldn't say her particular coat of armor was dented, just that the shine was taken off a little bit. As she sees it, it's just all the more reason to burnish its luster with successful tournaments these next two weekends.

"I'm trying to improve my focus," she said. "Lock in more on myself and my tennis and not worry so much about this particular point or that particular point. I just want to keep moving my feet and not really worry about my opponent too much at all."

And she's got the backing of her teammates on that one.

"They've been just awesome since then," she said of the loss.

Especially the freshman Konon, who like Coran, had little trouble winning her second singles bracket at the sectional as the Highlanders (56 points) overwhelmed the sectional field (Waukesha South was a distant second with 26).

Konan goes toe-to-toe with champ

In Coran's eyes, Konon has fully earned her lofty seed.

"We just have awesome practices together," said Coran. "We really compliment each other's games. On some teams, the gap between (the caliber of play) of one and two might be really distant, but not with us, she's just that good."

Egelhoff said that since the sectional was based in Oconomowoc, there was a lot of support for two-time state place-winner Katy Allen of Waukesha South in the first singles final against Coran.

She said Coran handled the home court atmosphere "beautifully" in winning 6-3, 6-4.

Senior Allison Berman (30-3) didn't earn an individual state berth despite winning fourth singles, but Egelhoff noted that she will be vital in two weeks to the Highlanders' state team hopes.

In doubles, the level of play, if it can be possible, was even higher, said Egelhoff as Peck and Lococo and Merar and Merar cruised to their titles. At three, Michelle Levin and Claire Songkakul (25-1) were also impressive in their flight championship.

"We are excited about these next two weeks," Egelhoff said. "Something we're really looking forward to. There are some outstanding things we can get done here. Hopefully, both weekends will be really long (laughs)."

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