Girls Tennis: Lincoln-Way East’s Ritter hoping for state success
By Jeff Vorva For Sun-Times Media October 20, 2013 8:28PM
Hope Ritter, of Lincoln-Way East | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 22, 2013 6:23AM
Lincoln-Way East senior Hope Ritter never gave up hope.
Her first extended time as the No. 1 singles player for the Griffins this year resulted in a 2-8 mark and that didn’t sit too well with her.
The past two seasons, she played mostly at No. 2 and piled up the victories and qualified for state in 2011 and 2012. This season, East coach Chris Olson scheduled some powerhouse opponents and entered the team into some strong tournaments and the losses began to mount.
Ritter said she never wanted to go back to No. 2 singles.
“My sophomore and junior year I wanted to stay at No. 2 singles,” she said. “I wasn’t ready for No. 1. But this year I came in ready. I knew it was going to be hard and I had to work at it, but even early in the season I never thought about going back to second singles. Playing first singles is an honor and I really respect that. It’s an honor that my coach put me there.”
After the rugged first 10 matches, things began to go Ritter’s way and she finished the regular season with a 15-7 mark to go 17-17 overall. In addition, she was the SouthWest Suburban Red champion.
Over the weekend, Ritter finished second at the Lincoln-Way North Sectional to Tinley Park’s Haley Wilcox and will make her third state appearance. Her effort also helped East to the sectional title.
Olson said Ritter moved into the top five on the school’s career list for wins. He’s hoping she can score a few points in the state tournament, which begins Thursday at sites in the north and northwest suburbs.
Olson said Ritter adjusted well to her new role despite the rough start.
“There is a big difference between first and second singles,” Olson said. “In second singles, you can be more of a back court, more consistent type of player. More than likely, you are going to be good enough to win at that level.
“This year, when she elevated her game to first singles, one of her biggest hurdles to overcome was her ability to put shots away and to be more aggressive. Our schedule early was loaded with a lot of state qualifiers and seeded players at the state tournament. I wanted her to get acclimated to that game and see that type of competition on a regular basis.”
Olson said Ritter’s .500 mark during the regular season didn’t show how much she improved.
“One thing she has shown is a lot of mental toughness all season,” Olson said. “I’ve tried to work with her in practice myself and push her and work on strategies where she can hit against some of the better players.’’
Ritter said she’s received college interest, but is concluding her competitive career after this weekend’s matches. She plans to study biology and pre-dentistry at either the University of Illinois, Grinnell or the University of Iowa.
She said this weekend will be “bittersweet” because she loves the sport so much.
“It’s one of the most honorable sports there is,” she said. “You have to have grace when you play and you can’t be rude or you will have penalties called on you. It incorporates running and endurance.
“Tennis is a great stress reliever so if I’m having a hard day, I can go out and take it out on the court.’’