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Francis Howell tennis standout Cherukuru claims first state berth

After a breakout junior season, Francis Howell girls tennis player Geethika Cherukuru clinched a spot in the Class 2 individual state tournament. [Provided photo]

Geethika Cherukuru was a secondary player for the Francis Howell girls tennis team last year playing at No. 6 singles.

After being an alternate for the state tournament ended last year, Cherukuru asked Howell coach Lucian Biasadecki what she needed to do to qualify for the state tournament this year. Biasadecki simply told her she would have to train harder than she ever had before to have a chance to go to the state tournament.

Mission accomplished.

On. Oct. 15 at Hazelwood West, Cherukuru’s grueling offseason of hard work and training paid off as she clinched a spot in the Class 2 individual state tournament by beating Hazelwood West’s No.1 singles player Shy Prescott 6-4, 7-5 in the Class 2, Section 3 tournament.

Cherukuru will be making her first-ever trip to the state tournament, which will be held at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield, Missouri on Oct. 25-26.

“It feels really good [to be going to state],” Cheurkuru said. “I didn’t expect to be here because I had a slow start at the beginning of the season and I wasn’t playing my best.”

Cherukuru came out strong early and was in control going into the second set of the match.

“She had a plan in place and she tried to stick to the plan, but being the first time on the bigger stage, she got a little nervous,” Biasadecki said. “But she fought through her [nervousness] in the first set by working on her opponent’s weaknesses.”

Prescott did not go away quietly though and made a late charge to keep the match close. Cherukuru calmed herself down, regrouped, and closed out the match.

“Towards the end, I got a little bit tight again,” Cherukuru said. “The pressure got to me and I was overthinking and not playing my game. I just tried to clear my mind and gain my motivation back and tried to finish it out and that worked.”

Biasadecki said that Cherukuru decided she was ready to go right into training to prepare to be a state qualifier.

“She was No. 8 last year and now she’s No. 1,” Biasadecki said. “At the end of last season, she decided that she wanted to go to the state tournament and she put in a lot of hard work, six days a week and sometimes three, four hours a day.”

Cherukuru added that the combination of private lessons over the summer, playing tournaments and almost daily practice helped her sharpen her game to an elite level this fall.

“I’ve been taking private lessons practicing almost every day and playing in tournaments,” Cherukuru said. “Coach has helped me work on improving my shots.”

Cherukuru felt that her game was coming together in all phases two weeks ago at the start of the Class 2, District 7 tournament.

“I had one really, really good day and ever since then my confidence has boosted and that helped me play better,” Cherukuru said.

Although she did not put forth any definite goals in place for her upcoming tournament in Springfield, Cherukuru feels that she has a good chance to do well.

“I think if I keep playing the way I’ve been okaying with the same level of confidence, that I can be pretty successful and I hope to continue to play well in Springfield,” Cherukuru said.

Biasadecki agreed.

“I told her that I think that she’s got a real shot to get on that podium,” Biasadecki said.

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