By Art Kabelowsky Special to Published Oct 15, 2009 at 4:11 PM

The first time I encountered the tennis machine that is Aly Coran was Sept. 13, 2008.

The event was a Saturday tournament at Nicolet High School. On my way in from the parking lot, I could already tell where the (then) freshman from Homestead was playing. Just the "thunk" of her ground strokes gave it away.

She carved through the field in the 2008 Nicolet Sweet 16 tournament without a blink, even though rain forced her tournament final, against Nicolet's talented Jennifer Winston, to be moved indoors at the North Shore Elite Racquet Club.

While playing, Coran is the model of decorum; no facial expressions, no fist-pumping, no furrowed brow revealing her inner fire. She just plays ‘em one point at a time, delivering powerful ground stroke after powerful ground stroke.

Who's to complain? It has worked well so far. Coran won the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 state singles championship last year, going 36-0 on the year and beating Waukesha South's Katy Allen in the final.

You could say it has simply been a case of manifest destiny for Coran. Her mother, Dr. Judy (Becker) Coran, played on three state championship teams at Nicolet and was part of a doubles team that won the 1978 state title. And one of Aly's closest friends for years has been former Cedarburg star Caitlin Burke, the only player in state history to win four WIAA singles championships.

This year, it has been more of the same for Coran -- who's just part of a Homestead team that might be having the best overall season in the illustrious history of the program.

The 2009 state individual tournament began today (Thursday) and runs through Saturday at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison. Once again, Coran is seeded first with a 32-0 record.

Special? In general, yes -- but not necessarily for the 2009 Homestead roster. Veteran coach Jackie Mueller-Egelhoff's four top singles players and four top doubles players have a combined season record of 204-3. The Highlanders won all eight of their regular-season dual meets, six of them by 7-0 sweeps, and took first place in all five of their regular-season tournaments and last week's sectional.

No. 2 singles player Carly Peck, a sophomore, is 33-1 on the year; freshman Sopia Lococo is 33-0 at No. 3; and senior Megan Geschke is 31-0 at No. 4. Peck and Lococo will join Coran in the state tournament bracket. In doubles, the No. 1 pair of senior Brittany Watchmaker and junior Corey Mattson is seeded first with a 25-1 record; senior Kristin Swenson and junior Dani Merar are 26-0 at No. 2; and juniors Allison Berman and Christy Kritner are 24-1 at No. 3.

Of course, results like those make Homestead an odds-on favorite in the state team tournament, a separate event to be held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 23-24, at Nielsen Stadium. But first comes the individual tournament.

Often overlooked because of Coran's success has been the play of Nicolet senior Jennifer Winston. The two have met 11 times over the last two seasons, and Coran has won them all.

This year, Winston enters state with the No. 3 seeding and a 22-7 record that includes six losses to Coran. If the two were to meet again, it would be in the final on Saturday.

"Some kids when they play Aly, they don't even give themselves a chance," longtime Nicolet coach Tim Koppa told the NOW newspapers earlier this month. "Not Jennifer. She loves the opportunity."

Also from the Milwaukee area:

  • Allen, last year's runner-up, is seeded fifth in Division 1 singles, with Sophie Lillie of Whitefish Bay seeded eighth and Homestead's Peck ninth.
  • In Division 1 doubles seedings , Tara Robey and Sara Woods of Divine Savior Holy Angels are second, Merar and Swenson are fourth, Sophie Carr and Katelyn Kotek of Brookfield East are sixth, Genevieve O'Meara and Maddy Henderson of DSHA are seventh, Kelsey Jeletz and Ellie Faustich are eighth and Ariel Winter and Aurora Gundersen of Nicolet are ninth.
  • In Division 2 singles, University School freshman Maddy Ecker is seeded second and teammate Saira Khanna is fourth. In D-2 doubles, University School's Becca Buchanan and Riley Kelly are seeded fourth. University School is also favored to earn a repeat title in the Division 2 state team tournament next weekend.

For more information on the tournament, including live results updates:

Division 1 singles

Division 2 singles

Division 1 doubles

Division 2 doubles 

Art Kabelowsky Special to

Art Kabelowsky has spent 33 years in the sports writing business, the last 12 with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Art was named the Journal Sentinel's Prep Editor in July, 2000, directing its high school sports coverage until he accepted the paper's offer of a voluntary buyout last August.

A graduate of Sussex Hamilton High School and UW-Whitewater, Art has also worked for daily papers in Fort Atkinson, Racine, La Crosse and Decatur, Ill. He has been sports editor in Fort Atkinson and La Crosse.

Art spent five years as a beat reporter covering the La Crosse Catbirds of the Continental Basketball Association and has also covered a Rose Bowl, countless Green Bay Packers games and more than 25 years' worth of state high school basketball tournaments and football finals.

He lives on the northwest side and has spent the last few months volunteering as an assistant football coach at Milwaukee Riverside High School.