OSWEGO – Makayla Buenafe makes the most of her time on the tennis court.
Buenafe, an Oswego East senior and its No. 1 singles' player, learns from her losses. She also learns from her wins.
"Every single time I'm on the court, practice or the match, I take it seriously," Buenafe said. "Every moment on the court there's something I want to work on. A lot of the wins I have I try to learn from them, learn other players' playing style, which is a huge part of tennis. I also focus on myself and how I can better myself."
That steadfastness has served Buenafe well.
Buenafe, who won 26 matches, a Southwest Prairie Conference championship and reached state for the first time last year, is enjoying another strong season in a most unusual year.
She's 9-1 in the truncated season, leading a Wolves' team that's 7-3 in duals with one left against Rosary this week before next week's conference meet. Oswego East is also at the Lockport Invite this weekend.
Oswego East coach Pete Conrad has learned to judge Buenafe's progress not solely by the result. She's won all nine matches in straight sets. Her lone loss was to Plainfield North's Grace Chadick, 6-0, 6-0.
"Her strength since I've known her is even after a win she knows what she needs to work on," Conrad said. "She wasn't happy with how the loss came about. It kind of rejuvenated her and pushed her hard after practice. We're excited to get that rematch at the conference tournament."
"She's a really good player; we train at the same club," Buenafe said of Chadick. "Since she's a lefty, and there's rarely any lefties, I wanted to learn from it and I feel like I did."
The season is clearly not what Buenafe is accustomed to. She's had to acclimate to the new COVID-19 protocols. Weekends were basically washed out, with potential tournament opponents outside Oswego's COVID region.
Buenafe, though, has taken joy from it.
"Going into the season I was very confused with how it was going to work with the protocols but now that we're almost done not much has changed. You adapt to playing 3-4 matches a week," Buenafe said. "I'm just happy we have a season. We have improved so much as a team. It's been a good season, bonding with the girls. There is a lot of hiccups not being able to play in tournaments on the weekends but we have sectionals and conference; it's all you can ask for."
At No. 1 doubles, senior Crystal Hwang and sophomore Jasmine Chan are undefeated for Oswego East. Their first match to go three sets was this week against a returning state qualifier from Minooka, the Wolves' pair taking the third set 7-5.
"Loved to see that, to have your last dual in conference really test you and push you," Conrad said. "The way they were able to overcome should push them going forward."
At No. 2 doubles juniors Lilli Price and Caitlin Carmody have had an up-and-down season, but Conrad loves how they constantly come to practice ready to work on the things that need fixing.
"Their net game has got dramatically better," said Conrad, also noting the improvement of Carmody's serve. "I'm optimistic they'll keep making progress."
Ella Funk at No. 2 singles notched her second win of the season against Minooka and freshman Vennela Reddy Vakati has two wins while she learns on the fly. Conrad expects to have sophomore Sofia Calafos back from a sprained ankle at conference for No. 3 doubles with Kate Lindsay, a team that made the big jump from JV last year. Gloria Echegoyen and freshman Molly Gardner pair at No. 4 doubles.
Oswego East has won conference seven of the last nine years, Plainfield North the only team to interrupt that streak in the last decade. Plainfield North, with just one conference loss, would appear to be the favorite in the SPC meet that will be broken up into two divisions.
"Any of these tournaments, whether you won or lost before, when you step on the court it's a new match," Conrad said. "I fully expect my girls to go out there with the expectation that they're going to win this thing."
Oswego's winning Senior Night
Oswego celebrated its Senior Night in style with a 5-2 win over Plainfield South. Oswego senior Lili Couvat at No. 3 singles, the No. 1 doubles team of senior Breanna Carr and sophomore Sofia Carr, the No. 2 doubles team of senior Chelsea Theinkeu and sophomore Riley Fioresi and the No. 3 doubles team of sophomore Addie Metoyer and sophomore Mykayla Mendiola were all straight-set winners.
The Panthers recognized seniors Carr, Couvat, AnnaBeth Hardersen, Lexi Lee, Peyton Loncala, Ellie Murillo, Theinkeu, and Olivia Walko.
"These athletes have been part of the Oswego High School girls tennis team since their freshman and sophomore years, as well as being part of different sports, activities, and academic clubs," Oswego coach Christine Kueker said. "We thank them for all of the hard work they have put into training, their leadership, and constant commitment to competition and sportsmanship. On our Senior Day we also recognized their families for all of the support they have given their athletes throughout the year."