After doubles title, Deerfield's Fellerhoff eyes state singles championship
Some decide to stay completely on the tour. Others devote one year to the tour and spend their three other seasons with their high school team. Fewer and fewer play high school tennis their entire career.
At Deerfield High School, it's not out of the ordinary for a player to take a year off to concentrate on her game. As of late, it's happened a few times with the school's elite players.
Warriors senior Julia Fellerhoff has seen teammates come and go like that, and she understands why they opt to do so. While she also is one of the state's top players and possibly could benefit from an entire year on the tour, it's never crossed her mind.
"The team is too important to me," she said. "They're like a family. I wouldn't want to let them down in any way."
It's the attitude Fellerhoff has possessed from the first day she first arrived into Deerfield's program. Warriors coach Geoff Gluck knew right away Fellerhoff was going to be a skilled player, but he was just as pleased to find out she was willing to do whatever she could to help the team.
In her first three seasons, she did just that. For three consecutive years, she played doubles and did so with three different partners. Like most players, she would have preferred to play singles -- it offers more competition -- but she never complained once. She was asked to play doubles, so she played doubles.
Gluck did have his reasons, with the main one being Fellerhoff is a phenomenal doubles player.
"She has tremendous net play," Gluck said. "She also moves very well. She's also very instinctive. A lot of doubles is instinctive.
"Julia knows what to do on the tennis court, and she knows what her partner is capable of. She's smart enough and talented enough to make any adjustments, not only from partner to partner, but match to match."
As a sophomore, Fellerhoff teamed with Cali Gustafson, and they took fifth in the state. Last season, she partnered with Misia Krasowski, and together they went undefeated and won the state championship.
In the title match, the Warriors met No. 2 seed Lake Forest, a team that Deerfield needed a 7-6 tiebreaker in the third set to defeat earlier in the season. Their second encounter would be just as intense.
"It was what I consider to be one of the best, if not the best, doubles matches in state history," said Gluck, who has been coaching for 33 years. "What really impressed me was the extremely high level of play. There was nothing tentative about it. They were playing very aggressive.
"In the end, Julia, she raised her level toward the end of the match. She really came through with some critical clutch shots."
Fellerhoff said, "I like playing under pressure. I feel like I thrive under pressure. I feel like I play better when it's close at the end or I'm down."
What Fellerhoff remembers most about state is the celebration afterward.
"It was probably the best experience I've ever had in high school," she said. "It was one of the best experiences in my life. It was so important for me and Misia."
Now with Krasowski and the team's top singles player Rachel White graduated, it affords Fellerhoff the opportunity for the first time in four seasons to play singles. It's what she's been looking forward to all off-season. She felt good about her play during the summer and is ready to take that into the high school season.
"I feel like I'm right there," said Fellerhoff, who is considering playing next year at Iowa, Missouri or Ohio State. "I'm almost ready to break out. I feel like I have a game that can take me further in these tournaments and to a good college. I don't expect to be a professional tennis player. I'm more realistic about that.
"I definitely think I have a really good shot at state this year."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.