By Mark Gregory
Plainfield Central and Plainfield East met to open Southwest Prairie Conference play earlier this season, they were two teams were meeting as teams on the same path toward success this season.
Both the Wildcats and Bengals are teams that feature young, but experience players having been forced to play young players on varsity a year ago.
“I think we are in a really good position compared to where we were last year when we had really low numbers,” said Plainfield Central coach Jaclyn Kwiatt said. “It was hard to get wins last year because we didn’t have a full team and we had to forfeit spots. This year, we have 13 kids on JV and 13 kids on varsity and we have a lot of returning varsity players that have varsity experience so I think we will be able to move up this year as long as the girls stay focused. This is a great group of girls, they are positive and they work really hard and they are out here every day trying their best.”
Kwiatt said this season’s team is working out partly because of what she had to do last season.
“It worked out well that a lot of the girls got the varsity experience and now they know what it takes to be on the varsity team and what they need to do in the varsity conference, because we do have a lot of good teams competing,” she said.
The team is led this season by a veteran who had success for Central a season ago.
“Our No. 1 singles player is Katie Kearney, she was No. 1 singles last year and placed third in conference,” Kwiatt said. “She is quick and athletic and very positive and she does great against a wide range of players. At first doubles, we have Julia Smith and Payton Irwin and our second doubles are Amanda Mohler and Elizabeth Hsieh.”
East also has veteran leadership at its top doubles spot.
“Emily Gu is still playing No. 1 doubles for us with Rachel Park and they are both seniors,” said East coach BJ Buncio. “We have a lot of returners, but at the same time we are really young. We lost some good players last year, but we still have a lot of good returning players. We have two freshmen on varsity this year and two sophomores.”
One of those sophomores is at the top of the Bengal lineup.
“At No. 1 singles is a sophomore, Roochi Shah,” Buncio said. “This year is a learning year for her because this is her first year at the position.”
With all that, Buncio is hoping East can begin to play competitively in the SPC and stay there for the future.
“Our numbers are a little bit less than last year, but we are still able to fill out both rosters,” he said. “We have nine teams in the conference and it just keeps getting more competitive.
“We are a school that keeps building and we are still a work in progress.”