STREATOR — Senior nights and convincing victories are both pretty enjoyable things.
The Streator girls tennis team got to enjoy both early Tuesday evening at the SHS tennis courts, defeating former NCIC rival Mendota 4-1 in varsity play to score the team win on senior night — always a special match, especially when it's accompanied by a victory.
"For a couple of reasons," said Lady Bulldog netters coach Kaye Tallier. "I'm really happy for the seniors. I think they've worked hard to make sure they're improving each week, so this is where it pays off, to get a victory. But I'm also happy that, as a team, we beat Mendota. I'd have to look pretty far back to find a time where we beat Mendota 4-1, so that's also nice to get a team victory.
"And we had a really nice crowd out here today — more parents and family members than we typically have. That doesn't always make the girls play better, but tonight I think they were playing better because of their fan support.
"And finally, this is the part of the season where you want the girls to be as good as they can be."
After seniors Sam Reeland, Helena Ogle, Alyssa Heilman, Aleaha Evans and Katelyn Coons were honored, the SHS 12th-graders got down to the business of making it an even happier senior day.
Heilman at No. 1 singles faced a tough challenge from Mendota's Hannah Ambler, but as the match wore on increasingly controlled the action and had Ambler on the run en route to a 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 triumph.
"Since the start of the season I've been excited for it," Heilman, 6-5 on the season, said of her senior day. "I was really nervous at the beginning, because I was down and I lost the first set. Then the second set was close, but I was able to get that. Then the tiebreaker, I just got really excited, was playing to the best of my abilities, and I was getting stronger hits, so I was pretty confident."
A pair of seniors, Reeland and Coons at No. 3 doubles in their first and final year in the program, also enjoyed a victory, getting stronger — and tapping their rackets more and more — as the match went on to take care of the Lady Trojan duo of Karen Perez and Alli Stielow 6-4, 6-0.
"I joined tennis because it was my senior year, and I wanted to end my last year of high school on a good note," said Coons. "I chose this sport not thinking I would actually go through with (the whole season), but it turned out to be one of my best decisions of high school.
"I really enjoy it, I really enjoy all the girls ... and I'm really just having a good time being able to be outside my comfort zone and play this sport."
Reeland said the win — one of three so far this season for the team — was extra special coming on senior day.
"We don't really win (a lot)," Reeland said. "Not very often, and since it was senior night and we were able to win, it just feels great."
Ogle and partner Heilman picked up an exhibition doubles win as well, while at No. 2 doubles Streator's other senior, Evans, and partner Lucy Zavada fell in a hard-fought, back-and-forth, 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 bout with Rachel Brandner and Ashleigh Collins.
Streator triumphed in its two matches not involving SHS seniors. Claire Vogel won 6-2, 6-3 at No. 2 singles over Mendota's Mary Defore, while at No. 1 doubles it was Haley Berry and Lora Berry with the 6-3, 6-1 triumph over Natalie Grozco and Twila Martinson.