DUNLAP — For the past couple of years, Dunlap senior tennis player Emily Yu had been pretty successful playing doubles for the Eagles, even though she was basically a singles player at heart.
This season, she went back to playing solo and continued her success on the court.
On the other side of the net, her teammate Regan Duchaine advanced to state in singles for Dunlap last season, but switched to doubles this year.
Both players will be trying to put their names on the short list of Dunlap players who have qualified for the state tournament in both singles and doubles when they compete in the Class 1A Geneseo Sectional, which starts on Friday.
They will have to reach the final four to earn what would have been a return trip to state. The IHSA canceled this year’s state meet because of the coronavirus pandemic, so sectional play will end their season.
Yu qualified for state each of the past two seasons by playing doubles with Katie San Jose, who graduated last year. This season, Yu switched to No. 2 singles, playing behind No. 1 player Taylor Disharoon, a three-time state qualifier in singles.
Yu only lost one match at No. 2 singles all season and went undefeated in doubles, paired with Disharoon.
Duchaine advanced to state last season in singles, but will try to reach the sectional final four by playing doubles with Maggie Waller.
"We’ve had some really great players come through DHS," Dunlap coach Patrick Gornik said. "But to be able to qualify for state in singles and doubles puts you in a different class of versatility.
"Typically, players would qualify in doubles first, then go for singles later on. Once a player plays singles, it’s rare to switch back to doubles. It just depends on what the team needs and how everyone fits together."
Yu and Duchaine hope to join the list of just nine former Eagles who have accomplished the feat since 1990 out of the 42 different Dunlap girls who have qualified for state.
For Yu, playing doubles with San Jose was a great learning experience.
"Before I came to the Dunlap High School team, I wasn’t actually a doubles player at all," she said. "Katie helped me through a lot, and I definitely grew as a doubles player.
"They were two amazing seasons playing with Katie — the best I could have asked for."
This year, however, Yu decided to return to her singles roots. She said she used what she had learned in doubles to get better in singles.
"Overall, I think it helped me grow as a player," Yu said. "It helped me with my communication skills, and with my overall play in general."
Making the switch from doubles to singles was not a big transition for Duchaine.
"It was more about the strength of the team currently, because I can really play both doubles and singles really well," she said. "So I was able to switch.
"Emily has always been more of a singles player. So with Katie gone to college, it sort of fit for the team for me to play doubles instead of singles this year."
Gornik assigned teams at the beginning of the season to see which pairings worked the best.
"Maggie and I just ended up vibing really well and working really well on the court. So that’s the team that ended up sticking."
Playing No. 2 doubles, Duchaine and Waller went undefeated against Mid-Illini Conference teams and lost only once on the season.
"In doubles, I can still use a lot of my singles skills," Duchaine said. "But you have to play slightly different, because it’s not just you covering the whole court.
"You’ve got to work with your partner really well. So that’s a lot of reasons some people can’t play doubles – they’re not good at communicating with a partner."
If Yu and Duchaine do advance to Saturday’s final four, they will have to be satisfied with the notion that they would have advanced to the state finals.
"It’s definitely disappointing, especially because this year I was trying to go for singles," Yu said. "It would have been a great accomplishment for me to be able to quality both as a doubles and singles player.
"But with corona and everything, I understand the circumstances. I’m just really happy that we actually got a season, and we got to play through all of it.
Added Duchaine: "It sucks, because whether I would play singles or doubles, I feel like I could do really well at state this year.
"It’s a shame that I can’t, but I’d rather be safe and healthy and keep others safe and healthy than put anyone at risk by doing another tournament. It’s definitely the weirdest season I’ve ever had."
Johnny Campos can be reached at 686-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.