ROCHELLE — Rochelle senior tennis standouts Jordin Dickey and MeLisa Young achieved a historic feat this weekend, becoming the first Lady Hub doubles teammates in over two decades to qualify for the IHSA State Championship tournament in back-to-back seasons.
The two varsity netters would’ve advanced to the IHSA State Championship last season, but the competition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dickey and Young are Rochelle’s first back-to-back, state-qualifying doubles teammates since Kristy Pence Eckardt and Anne McKibben Holbrook earned consecutive trips to the state meet in 1999 and 2000.
“I’m really excited to have the chance to actually compete at the state meet this year,” Dickey said. “We communicated really well throughout the weekend and we stayed really composed during each match. We know where we’re at on the court at all times… It’s really fun being out there and playing with MeLisa because she’s been one of my very best friends for a long time.”
The Lady Hubs hosted the IHSA 1A Rochelle Sectional, which began Friday before concluding with the semifinal and championship matches Saturday. Dickey and Young earned the No. 4 doubles seed and dominated during the early rounds, cruising 6-3, 6-1 over Sterling’s Madison Hubbs and Sam Feather in the second round before defeating Rockford Boylan’s Katherine Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who received the No. 6 seed, with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
“I’m really proud of how we played because we left everything out there,” Young said. “We want to do big things at the state meet. We were able to find a lot of open shots on Friday and we were hitting the alleys. We knew we could qualify for state this year and we have great chemistry. We’ve also had a special bond for years, which makes qualifying a lot more fun.”
Having clinched a spot in the state tournament, Dickey and Young faced off against Dixon’s Leah Kuehl and Grace Ferguson, who were the No. 1 seed, during the semifinal round Saturday morning. The Dixon netters got the best of the Rochelle duo in the regular season, but Dickey and Young made the necessary adjustments to emerge victorious at the sectional, winning 7-6, 6-2 and advancing to the championship round against Boylan’s Isabel Furst and Elise Pecora.
“We knew they were good and we knew they were going to hit a lot of cross-court shots against us,” Dickey said. “They were waiting on us to make the mistakes, but our coaches emphasized and we focused on keeping the ball in play when they left the ball around the net.”
In a rematch of a nonconference, regular-season battle on Tuesday, Dickey and Young evenly split the first two sets with Furst and Pedora. But the Rochelle netters fell just short at the end, falling 4-6, 6-4, 4-6 to finish the sectional tournament in second place.
Dickey and Young will be the first Lady Hub doubles players to compete at the state meet since Lisa Noggle and Haley Griffith made the trip during the 2013 season. They’re also Rochelle’s first back-to-back state qualifiers since Jessica Albers advanced in singles during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
“I want to win at the state meet, but I also want to have fun,” Young said. “It’s our first time attending and it’s our only chance to compete there so I want the experience to be special.”
Seniors Josie Lundquist and Megan Thompson also took the court in doubles for Rochelle, defeating Rockford Christian’s Giavanna Buscema and Erin Powell 6-1, 6-1 during the first round. Lundquist and Thompson faced off against Sterling’s Anna Meltzer and Layla Tablante in the second round, playing a close second set but falling 1-6, 4-6 to bow out of the meet.
Seniors Emma Hicks and Madison Ost represented the Lady Hubs in the singles bracket. Hicks battled Rockford Boylan’s Emily Kielty in the first round, nearly winning the second set in a 2-6, 6-7 loss. Ost went three sets against Sterling’s Jenica Francis in the second round, coming just short in a 3-6, 7-5, 2-6 defeat. Rochelle finished fifth out of 10 teams with 10 points.