For 252 of the 256 tennis players competing in the Illinois High School Association State Meet, the tournament starts today, but for the four athletes from Deerfield High School it began at Trax Tavern & Grill Wednesday.
Mindy Borovsky, Ariel Lozovski, Jorie Fox and Jenna Borzak with gather with Coach Rich Koukal at Trax for what has become a traditional pre-tournament routine before heading to Tournament Central in Buffalo Grove where they checked in Wednesday night.
“We have a tradition of going to Trax the night before. It brings the team together,” Fox said. “Then we get our gear,” she added referring to the trip to tournament central and obtaining official tournament clothing. “It will help to have Ariel (Lozovski) there.”
Koukal, who is in his third year as head coach, likes the camaraderie of the team meal and the trip to Tournament Central as a bonding event.
“It gives us a chance to make it all about the experience,” Koukal said. “It’s a good part of the experience for them. It’s what I want them to get out of being on a high school team.”
Borovsky, Fox and Borzak are seniors making their third consecutive trip to the State Meet while Lozovski, a junior, is making her first. She is looking forward to the entire experience. “I’m excited and looking forward to it.” she said. “It’s awesome to be part of the team.
The Warriors placed fourth a year ago and fifth in 2010. Borovsky and Lozovski will be playing singles while Fox and Borzak are teaming as a doubles entry.
Like a year ago, the three returning players will be attempting to place higher than their projections to help improve Deerfield’s total team points. Borovsky, like the tandem of Fox and Borzak, are seeded 17th through 32nd.
The doubles team was projected to finish ninth through 16th last season but ended up fifth to ninth. “The seedings are based on this year’s performance,” Koukal said. Borzak has been injured part of the year but is healthy now.
“Anything can happen,” Borzak said. “We’ll play our best, see what happens and hope we can exceed our seed.”
All four Warriors play in individual tournaments sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association throughout the year where there is no team backup and no rewards for team performance. In the State Meet, players can still earn points for their squad after an initial loss.
Each victory in the top of the bracket is worth two points. After a loss, the athletes are placed in the consolation, or back draw, where each victory contributes a point to the team total. The state champion will earn 14 point for her team while there is a potential nine points in the back draw. That is where Koukal’s coaching skill comes into play.
“They have to put that loss in the past,” Koukal said of the defeat sending a player to the consolation round. “I explain to them every match they play (in the back draw) will make them better for next year and will help the team.”