York freshman makes impact at state tennis


By Jeff Vorva

York High School freshman CJ Coan was thrown into the fire on the first day.
Pity that poor fire.

The original idea was for Coan to learn the ropes on the varsity from Lizzie Isyanov.

Isyanov is the most successful Duke singles player in the school’s history, as she finished fifth in the Illinois High School Association Class 2A state meet in 2022 as a sophomore.

But Isyanov suffered an injury in the summer, and coaches Kara Dollaske and Brian Brigman put the freshman in the No. 1 slot, and it paid off big-time as Coan finished in the top eight in 2023.

The Elmhurst resident, who plays regularly in Oak Brook, was ready for the challenge even though she hated seeing Isyanov suffer an injury. “She’s an awesome person and a really good player,” Coan said. “Because she got hurt, I came in at No. 1, and I felt a little bit of pressure, but I feel like after my first match, I fell into a rhythm. And the team really makes it so much better. They let you know that you are not alone out there.”

Coan made it to the consolation semifinals in the state tournament and lost to Lake Forest senior Isabelle Chong, 6-1, 6-3. A win would have put Coan in the top six. With the loss, she and Fremd’s Alina Shyani were designated as tied for seventh place.

Coan was also the second-highest freshman to place in the meet behind Marist freshman Helena Klooster, who finished sixth.

In this history of York tennis, only Isyanov and the doubles team of Maria Redmond-Lisa Stock (fifth place in 1984) have medaled in the state meet. Coan is obviously not new to tennis, as she picked up a racket when she was five. She said her mother, Julie Coan, played high school tennis in Danville and club tennis at Northwestern.

“My mom played tennis in high school and college, so she got me into it pretty young,” she said. “I think I was like 5 or 6. But I didn’t focus on it until I was in sixth grade because I played a lot of soccer, too, and I balanced both of them.”

But one had to give way, and she dropped soccer so she could concentrate on playing tennis on the United States Tennis Association circuit. “It was kind of tough because I enjoyed playing soccer a lot,” Coan said of the decision. “But I love playing tennis so much. I love everything about it. I love that you don’t have to depend on anyone out there. If you miss a shot, that’s on you. It’s not like that in other sports.”

Coan’s postseason started out strong as she won the Hinsdale Central Sectional in a final four that featured three freshmen. She had come into the postseason with a 17-5 record and was seeded second. But she won her first three matches by a combined score of 36-4 and knocked off junior top seed Lily Brecknock of Fenwick, 7-5, 7-6.

Her first match at state saw her cruise 6-0, 6-0, and she followed it up with a 6-3, 6-1 triumph over Lane’s Maya Kasza. Then she ran into a buzzsaw in Chong in the third round and lost 6-0, 6-0. Coan was able to recover from that and fired off three wins in the consolation bracket before losing to Chong again.

Coan has played in some tough national tournaments over the years and said the IHSA meet was not easy. “This is a very high-level tournament,” Coan said. “Other tournaments I’ve been in, it takes a couple of rounds to get to the good players. But right off the bat, you play some really good players here.”

Her love for tennis comes from having control of any situation that arises. “I love the atmosphere and the competitiveness,” she said. “And to be on the court knowing you are in control of all of your shots. It’s only you on the court, and you can fight for it.” ■

Below: Coan, returns a shot at the IHSA state tournament, where she finished tied for second. Photos by Jeff Vorva

Freshman CJ Coan tied for seventh place in Class 2A I the IHSA state meet in October. Photos by Jeff Vorva