Photo by Diane Cox
Janelle Wilson was ready to get back on the tennis court in 2014, and she showed it with a stellar season for the Alton Redbirds.
Wilson sat idle her junior year after playing her freshman and sophomore seasons for the Marquette Catholic Explorers because of transfer rules.
She came back with a bang in 2014, winning a Southwestern Conference singles championship and qualifying for state for the Redbirds, where she went 2-2. Her overall record at AHS was 27-5.
Her stellar senior campaign earned her the distinction of AdVantage News Girls’ Tennis Player of the Year.
“It was fun,” Wilson said of returning to the prep tennis courts. She qualified for state as a freshman and sophomore at Marquette, too.
“It was a lot more fun than not playing (high school tennis),” Wilson said. “I still played tennis obviously last year, so I wasn’t missing the tennis part, but it was a lot of fun playing for Alton. I enjoyed it.
“I really liked being a Redbird. I really liked my team; they were really fun and Robert (Logan) is a really good coach.”
Her day at Belleville West on Oct. 11 at the SWC Tournament was her most dominant as a Redbird. Wilson defeated West’s talented Kayleigh Thurwalker 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 in the semifinals and then turned around to top Edwardsville’s No. 1 Callaghan Adams 6-3, 6-2 in the title match. That trio was an equally matched triple threat that proved to be the best in the Metro East, and on that day Wilson proved to be the best of the best.
Her dedication to her craft and her hard work have helped turn her into a top-notch netter. And even though she missed it, she’s certain her year off from high school tennis helped her game evolve.
“I definitely improved,” Wilson said of her evolution from a sophomore to a senior. “I’m a lot more mature on the court. I definitely couldn’t hit the ball very hard when I was a sophomore. I’ve gotten better at that. I serve better; really everything got better. I feel like I grew up a little bit more in the last few years. I’d say (sitting out) helped my maturity level. In high school it helps as far as the team aspect, but tennis-wise it’s just different. I spent a lot more time playing tennis than I would have if I were playing high school tennis and practiced a whole lot more.
“I only played a couple of tournaments, but I played a high national-level tournament and that really helped and that was a really good experience. In general, it helped. It would have been fun to play (high school tennis), but there was nothing I could do.”
Wilson trains at the Missouri Athletic Club to help polish her game. She is there almost daily.
Her plan is to play tennis at the collegiate level. Wilson is still looking for the perfect fit, but until then she’ll keep up her diligent work ethic on the court to improve.
“I get really good coaching (at Missouri Athletic Club) and I definitely go over there a lot,” she said. “I practice every day. I’m always wanting to get better.”