Photo by Bill RoseberryAlton High senior girls’ tennis player Janelle Wilson recently signed a letter of intent to continue her career at the University of Nebraska Omaha. A small ceremony was conducted at AHS on April 24 to celebrate the signing. Seated (from left) are grandfather Sam Roberts, grandmother Sharon Roberts, Janelle Wilson and Alton head girls’ tennis coach Robert Logan.
It was worth the wait for Janelle Wilson.
Recently the senior girls’ tennis player for the Alton Redbirds finally fulfilled her wish to become a Division I tennis player, and she’s doing it at her No. 1 choice. Wilson signed a letter of intent to continue her career at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
The 2014 AdVantage News Girls’ Tennis Player of the Year had to work out the particulars before she could sign with the Mavericks, but she’s glad it’s finally done.
“It’s really, really exciting,” Wilson said. “I was really stressed about where I was going to go because I didn’t know where I was going to go. I wanted to go to Omaha; I just didn’t know if I was going to get to go there or not, so I’m excited. I like the city, I like the coach and I like the school a lot.
“Really, Omaha is the only school I was looking at, so that’s why it’s been so stressful.”
The Mavericks made the jump to D-I from D-II in 2011 and are now members of the Summit League. They registered a 5-15 record in ‘14-15 with a 2-5 conference mark.
Omaha is getting a talented netter in Wilson. In her senior year with the Redbirds she notched a 25-5 record, became the first ever Alton girls’ tennis player to win a Southwestern Conference title, was second at sectionals to qualify for state and made honorable mention all-state. During the season she defeated 10 girls who went on to become sectional champs.
AHS head coach Robert Logan was stoked to have her for a season. Wilson spent her first two years at Marquette Catholic High and had to sit out her junior campaign because of transfer rules. But Logan was even more stoked to see her sign with Omaha after watching her fret over the decision throughout the year.
“It’s fantastic for her and her family and to finally have this out of the way,” Logan said. “Throughout the season she was constantly stressing about it and where to go. She was a mess sometimes just trying to decide what she wanted to do. Tennis doesn’t give out a lot of full rides, so she was weighing the options of going away and playing at a higher level but getting less money, and it’s a lot to weigh on. I’m just extremely happy that she found her home and she deserves it.”
The highlight of her senior season came when she won the SWC crown. Wilson defeated Belleville West’s Kayleigh Thurwalker, an annual state qualifier, and then Edwardsville’s No. 1 player and a state qualifier in Callaghan Adams in the conference tournament finals. A pretty good day on the court.
Wilson admitted playing at Alton for the one season was good for her. She thought Logan was a calming influence for her on the court.
“I think Robert calms me down a little more,” Wilson said. “He tells me to calm down and focus more and not get so upset. I think he’s helped me a little bit in doubles. I just think all around he’s made me mentally better.”
Logan was overwhelmed by Wilson’s work ethic in her one season with the Birds. He thinks her example has left a lasting impression on the program moving forward.
“Her work ethic was just world class,” Logan said. “Whatever drill you told her to do it was like it was the third set of the sectional final. She was completely focused in wanting to win that drill. Whatever we were doing she was doing her best and getting the most out of it and it was great for our other girls to see that. It really did good for our younger guys coming up and I’m thankful for her showing them the work ethic and determination it takes to be a good tennis player.”
Now Wilson will turn her attention to becoming an even better player for the Mavericks. Working on turning her serve into a weapon is job No. 1 before heading to Omaha, along with becoming more physically fit.
“I need to get fitter,” she said. “I’m going to spend a lot more time in the gym and work on being faster. I’ve been working on being a little more aggressive in my serve especially. Right now it’s just something to start the point, it’s not as much of a weapon.”
Wilson is undecided on what she will major in at Omaha.