In fall 2011, Kelli joined the tennis team at Lyons Township High School and, not surprisingly, made an impact as much on the team as on the court. Kelli loved playing tennis, but even more, she loved making new friends.
She also made an impression on her competitors, including those who played on rivals like Hinsdale Central, York, and Lincoln Way East high schools. In fact, after her passing, those schools sent counselors to LT to help Kelli’s classmates cope with their grief.
For the past several years, LT’s tennis team has played in a special Freshmen tournament with those three high schools as a way to honor Kelli’s memory and establish camaraderie among the teams.
This year’s tournament, held in late August, marked the retirement of Kelli’s coach and tournament founder Ron Leban (in blue shown above) and the welcoming of the new JV tennis coach at LT, Jenna Reisch, who has been part of the LT and west suburban tennis family for several years.
During the most recent tournament – at which the LTHS players wore uniforms with a KJO logo that were donated by Kelli’s foundation to the team — Jenna shared some poignant remarks, underscoring the importance of inclusion and commitment across all levels on and off the court and among different teams. “Coming back to LT as a coach after being a player a little over a decade ago, I thought this quad (tournament format) was a special way for the community and LT girls tennis to remember Kelli and the mark she made on the tennis program,” Jenna said. “The quad is a perfect opportunity to allow our freshmen a chance to play, especially some of our players new to competitive tennis.”
LT’s team beat Hinsdale Central and York this year, losing its doubles game to Lincoln Way East. “I was proud to see everyone try their hardest and further learn the game of tennis,” Jenna declared.
The 2017 LTHS tennis team’s spirit of JOY extends off the court in other ways, as they plan to volunteer during the annual Run for Kelli on Sunday, Oct. 1.
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