Konon establishes her leadership as Homestead tennis roars into state
Defending champ top singles seed
Mequon - It is a bit different this year for Homestead's defending state singles tennis champion Elizabeth Konon.
Without the shielding influence of now-graduated leaders Aly Coran and Carly Peck, who were linchpins in the Highlanders four previous WIAA State team titles, she and fellow junior Mardee Merar along with senior doubles' player Sophia Lococo have had to become leaders in their own right.
And though the results have remained the same with the Highlanders turning in another dominant fall regular season including a fifth straight North Shore Conference title and an easy win in the WIAA sectional meet last week in Oconomowoc, it has been admittedly not as easy as it has looked.
"A lot different from last year," said Konon, who will enter the state individual tournament this weekend at Nielsen Stadium as the top seed with a 28-0 record. "Mardee, Sophia and myself (the primary veterans from last season) have had to become leaders and that's been a little more interesting because in a lot of cases, the matches have been a lot closer."
But still they won. So much so, that Konon and Merar (30-0) will enter the tournament in the rarely-seen position of owning the top two seeds in the singles bracket, while Lococo has joined with freshman Anna Kreynin to turn in a 30-0 season, also good for the top seed in doubles.
Konon is surprised by none of this, but she knows the individual tournament is just an appetizer for the main meal ahead, the state team tournament, which will be held Oct. 19-20 back at Nielsen.
Team title more important
A fifth straight team title is all important to her.
"Obviously it would be nice to win the individual again," she said, "but we want to win the team again more. I'm just trying to do my best and not think too much about last year. I'm not surprised at all that Mardee got the second seed. She's my teammate, I hit with her every day, so I was really hoping that that would happen and it did.
"She's a very aggressive player and doesn't back down from anyone."
A wildcard in the singles mix will be Milton foreign exchange student Lea Krajcovicova (24-0) who comes in as the seventh seed and is not known to many players and coaches statewide because this is her first (and only) year in Wisconsin prep tennis.
"I've been told that she's a very nice player," Highlanders coach Jackie Egelhoff said.
But Konon already has her eyes on the bigger picture two weeks from now.
"I think if we're to do this (win team state again), every one single person will have to do their best," she said. "We can't just rely on the top two singles and first doubles. … but I'm excited to be going back. Hopefully things will turn out well."
Joining that trio of top-seeded entries at individual state will be third singles player Alex Talyansky (25-1) and the second doubles team of Carlie Swenson and Kate Weitzer (24-9). Konon, Merar, Lococo and Kreynin will have a first-round bye and play in Friday morning second-round matches while Talyansky as well as Swenson and Weitzer will be playing Thursday afternoon first-round matches.
Play continues all day Friday with the championship matches scheduled for Saturday at approximately noon.
Team cruises in sectional
The Highlanders earned their berths by winning five of seven flights and cruising to the title in the WIAA Oconomowoc sectional with 50 points as Arrowhead was second with 42.
Konon, Merar and Talyansky all won their flights as did the teams of Lococo and Kreynin and Swenson and Weitzer.
Meanwhile, Grace Clemons at fourth singles (9-2) and the third doubles team of Madeline Slicker and Gillian Dyer (9-5) both took thirds.
"We were extremely pleased," Egelhoff said. "There was a lot of excitement at the beginning. After fourth singles and third doubles lost, they had to re-group and re-focus (for their consolation matches). Those third-place finishes were important."
"It helped that Elizabeth and Mardee and Sophia and Alex were all strong, dominant and focused. And it was an exciting final at two doubles. Those two (Swenson and Weitzer) played well in the final (against a pair from Arrowhead).
"It was interesting. Arrowhead came in pretty confident that they could beat us. … but our leaders held form. We're all thrilled."
And on the leadership front, Egelhoff was very pleased with the form Konon showed.
"She wants to be the best every time out and hates even losing a game," Egelhoff said. "Like everyone else here, she's not taking anything for granted."
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