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Lyons Township's Alex Chatt during her semifinal match against Wheaton Warrenville South's Keisha Clousing at the IHSA Girls Tennis Championships on Saturday, October 20, 2012 in Buffalo Grove. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
For several years, girls volleyball players have made verbal commitments to a college as soon as their junior and even sophomores years. The trend seems to be coming to girls tennis as well.
Lyons junior Alex Chatt, who finished third at state singles this past season and second in 2011, verbally committed to Northwestern Dec. 15, more than a year before she is planning to graduate from high school.
“My goal was to commit by the end of my junior year,” said Chatt, a Western Springs resident.
Chatt chose Northwestern over Michigan. Other schools under consideration were Indiana and Illinois. The lure to play for Northwestern coach Claire Pollard was too great and Chatt jumped at the chance to receive an education at the Big Ten school in Evanston. Chatt’s high school coach, Bill Wham, grew up eight blocks from Northwestern’s campus and graduated from Evanston. He was recruited as a tennis player by Northwestern, but decided to leave home for Indiana.
Wham said Chatt is the first recruit from Lyons’ boys and girls program to choose Northwestern. He compared Chatt to former Lyons star Margie Lepsi, who became an All-American at Tennessee.
“Kids play so many tournaments throughout the year,” Wham said. “They play in the fall and into the summer. They like to make a commitment (early) if it all falls into place. This takes the focus off of Alex’s senior year.”
Chatt would not be able to sign a letter of intent until November 2013. She left Dec. 25 to compete in the United States Tennis Association’s Winter Nationals in Arizona.
She will play in a Wild Card Challenge Jan. 18-20 in Midland, Mich. The winner of that tournament qualifies for the 25th annual Dow Corning Tennis Classic, a USTA pro circuit event from Feb. 3-10 in Midland.
Chatt decided to make her commitment as a late birthday present for her mother, Grazina, who was born Dec. 12. After making the commitment, Chatt planned on wearing Northwestern-related clothes during her upcoming tournament appearances.
“I don’t think it was one thing that I fell in love with Northwestern,” Chatt said. “It was a mixture of everything and I love that it is close to home.”
Former Hinsdale Central state champion Nida Hamilton currently plays for Northwestern, but as a junior, Hamilton will no longer be playing for the Wildcats when Chatt arrives. Northwestern’s roster currently includes players from Germany, England and Ontario, but only Hamilton resides in Illinois.
Lake Forest senior Maddie Lipp has already signed with Northwestern for next season. Two other senior recruits for Northwestern are Jillian Rooney of Canton, Mass., and Manon Peri of Los Angeles, according to tennnisrecruiting.net.
The recruiting website lists Chatt as a 5-Star Blue Chip recruit. She is ranked No. 14 nationally in the Class of 2014 and No. 1 in Illinois. Her career record is 66-19 in USTA events.
Chatt did not compete in the IHSA state meet as a freshman due to a right hip injury.
She beat Wheaton Warrenville South’s Keisha Clousing, the state’s No. 2-ranked junior, in the 2011 state semifinals, but lost to Illinois-bound Jerricka Boone of Morgan Park Academy in the state final, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
In October, Chatt lost to eventual state champion Clousing in the semifinals in three sets and beat Naperville Central’s Tiffany Chen 6-1, 6-0 to take third place.