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Watch now: West's Madeline Gentry won't have familiar foes in Class 2A sectional tennis

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Normal West's Madeline Gentry returns a volley during a match last year. Gentry will be looking to advance to her third state tournament in this weekend's Class 2A Moline Sectional.

NORMAL — Madeline Gentry lost only one singles match this season. The Normal West High School senior won't have a chance to avenge that defeat, but that's all right with her.

Gentry and the Wildcats will be competing in the Class 2A Moline Sectional on Friday and Saturday. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to next week's state tournament in Buffalo Grove.

Normal Community sophomore Kruthi Sudhir, who downed Gentry in one of their two matches, will be competing in doubles with the Iron's other standout sophomore, Anna Mayes.

"I really love playing Kruthi and Anna, but I see them all the time not just during high school season, but throughout the year," said Gentry. "It's always a little fun figuring out new opponents and what you have to do to beat them."

Gentry beat Sudhir in three sets during last year's singles sectional final. This season, Sudhir prevailed over Gentry in a three-set match and they played again last weekend in the Big 12 Conference No. 1 singles final.

Sudhir won the first set, 6-2, but with the second set tied at 2-all had to retire.

"That's not the way I wanted to beat her," said Gentry.

NCHS coach Roger Juers said Sudhir and Mayes, whose only loss this season was to Bloomington sisters Mariel and Gabby Runyan, could be in line for a seed at state if they win this weekend. 

Sudhir and Mayes were 3-1 against the Runyans this season, including the Big 12 No. 1 doubles titles.

"We just didn't play doubles last year because it didn't matter. Last year we were trying to win sectional since there was no state to play for," said Juers, as the state was canceled because of the pandemic. "We put them in singles and tried to get the most points that way. It didn't work out, but that's all right."

Gentry will be looking to advance to state in singles for the second time. She did so as a freshman and also qualified for state in doubles with Emily Kettering as a sophomore in 2019.

"She's developed a lot more patience in her game this year and for the most part has cut down on unforced errors," said West coach Chris Golick. 

Gentry enjoyed having a regular summer to work on her game after the previous summer was interrupted by the pandemic. 

"My technique as a whole is pretty good, but the way I play the game has changed. I've become a lot more patient of a player," she said. "I'm not making as many goofy errors and just keeping the ball in play a little more."

Juers said Sudhir and Mayes are "like sisters" which helps them communicate on the court.

"Both are good servers and have really improved their returns this year. That's the biggest thing," said Juers." Our returning has gotten so much better than last year, getting every ball back. We're closing the net better. We have things to work on, but it's a lot better than last year even though they were really good last year."

BHS won the Class 1A Central Catholic Sectional last year with Mariel Runyan taking first in singles and Gabby third. But the Raiders have moved up to Class 2A this season.

University High, Central Catholic, Lincoln and Cornerstone Christian are in the Class 1A Metamora Sectional. The Pioneers' Brooke and Haley Martin are coming off a second-place finish in the Central State Eight Conference No. 1 doubles division. 

Saints rolling in soccer

Four goals each by Jaylen Bischoff and Joe Carter powered top-seeded Central Catholic to a 12-0 victory over Iroquois West on Tuesday in the Class 1A Iroquois West Boys Soccer Regional semifinals. That also gave the Saints their 20th victory of the season.

Central Catholic (20-3-1), which won its first ever Illini Prairie Conference title, will try to make it home for next week's sectional when it meets Hoopeston Area in Saturday's regional championship match at Gilman.

Another Intercity team could be headed to the Central Catholic Sectional. Cornerstone Christian advanced to Saturday's University High Regional championship match and will face either the host Pioneers or Bismarck-Henning-Rossville-Alvin.

Regionals begin next week in Class 2A and 3A. 

Sydney Sennett, Normal West

Sydney Sennett puts up a set during Normal West volleyball practice.

West volleyball cruising

Normal West's volleyball team improved to 8-0 in the Big 12 Conference with a 25-14, 25-18 victory against Bloomington on Tuesday. Northwestern recruit Averie Hernandez led the way with 15 kills while Sydney Sennett contributed 16 assists and nine digs.

The Wildcats (25-5 overall) have two more matches left in an attempt to run through the league unscathed. West is at Urbana on Thursday before closing Big 12 action with a home match Tuesday against Unit 5 rival Normal Community.

NCHS lost to the Wildcats in three sets during the Intercity Tournament last month.

West has dropped to Class 3A this year and is a No. 1 seed in the Rochester Sectional. The Wildcats face Rantoul in the Bloomington Regional semifinals on Oct. 26.

Tremont clinches share

In a Heart of Illinois Conference volleyball showdown Tuesday, host Tremont clinched at least a share of the league title by beating Eureka, 26-24, 25-18. 

The Turks, who improved to 19-2 overall and 11-0 in the HOIC, can capture the undisputed title Thursday when they travel to face El Paso-Gridley. Tri-Valley, 10-1 in the league, faces GCMS on Thursday in Gibson City.

Fieldcrest's Stoeger victorious

Fieldcrest senior Mason Stoeger won the Columbus Day Invitational cross country race Monday in Amboy.

Stoeger covered the 2.95-mile course in 15 minutes, 21.2 seconds to beat Thomas Harmon of Elmwood by 26 seconds in the 166-runner field.

Eureka's Anna Perry took second in the girls race (17:43.1), while the Hornets' Elle Knapp was ninth (19:04.9).

Pantagraph reporter Jim Benson's top five games

Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_benson


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