YORKVILLE – Ashley Hatch, Sarah Pankow, Nicola Betz and the Yorkville tennis team started a new tradition this year.
They huddle before each match. Then they let out a cheer.
The Foxes have plenty to shout about.
Pankow won her singles bracket, Hatch was second and first-year tennis player Nicola Betz was third at the Southwest Prairie Conference meet this past week.
On the strength of those three, Yorkville took fourth in their first year in the conference.
"We rose up to the competition of the other teams in the conference," said Hatch, who plays No. 1 singles. "It's been a really strong year."
Indeed it has. Yorkville went 6-4 in SPC duals, then finished behind only Oswego East, Plainfield North and West Aurora in the conference meet moved indoors to the Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora.
The Foxes followed up the conference meet by beating Morris 7-0 on Tuesday.
"I was really tickled that the girls played as competitively as they did," Yorkville coach Frank Yabsley said. "There is no let up with them."
Hatch and Betz held their respective seeds, while Pankow avenged her only conference loss to take the title at No. 2 singles.
Second-seeded Pankow beat Plainfield East 6-4, 7-5 and Oswego East 6-1, 6-1, then defeated top seed Maddie Kearney of Plainfield Central in the championship 7-6 (7-2, 6-1).
"I knew going in that the championship match would be a difficult one, but I knew I could do it if I pushed hard," said Pankow, whose record is 16-2 after the tournament. "It worked out."
Second-seeded Hatch beat Plainfield North 6-4, 6-0 and Annie Starasinich of Joliet West 6-4, 6-0, then lost a spirited 6-4, 6-4 match to top seed Makayla Buenafe of team champion Oswego East.
"I thought that was the best match Ashley has played for a couple seasons now," Yabsley said. "She was right there. She played with a lot of class and emotion."
The match mirrored the one during the season between Hatch and Buenafe, who know each other well from playing at Five Star Tennis Center.
"That was an awesome match," said Hatch, 14-4 after the tournament. "I practice with her at Five Star, we're good friends. I knew it would be a good match. It was super fun to have that be my last conference match."
While Hatch is wrapping up her high school career, Betz is just getting started.
She's softball teammates with Pankow, who encouraged her to give tennis a try.
"Sophomore year I was trying to convince her to play and she had a back injury," Pankow said. "She's come out this year and done amazing."
Bentz indeed has, with a 14-4 record after conference. At No. 3 singles she beat Oswego 6-2, 6-2, lost to Plainfield North 5-7, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5), then came back to beat Ella Funk of Oswego East 6-3, 6-3 for third.
"I definitely learned a lot this year," said Betz, who never played competitively until this year. "It was a really good first year."