Three years ago, Janet Buenrostro made local history when she became the first Proviso East High School tennis player in over 35 years to qualify for the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) state tennis tournament.
At the time, Mel Phillips, a volunteer tennis coach at East who himself qualified for the state tournament in 1978, as a senior at the high school, said as far as he knew, Buenrostro, then 14, was the first female Proviso East tennis player to qualify for the state tournament since at least 1980.
Now, three years later and nearly a year into an unprecedented pandemic, Buenrostro is still making history.
This year’s state tournament in tennis may have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Buenrostro’s historic feat still stands.
This year marked the third time in her four years at East that the senior tennis player has qualified for the state tournament.
In a statement the district released on Dec. 28, Phillips was even more lavish in praising his star pupil.
“She’s the best female tennis player ever, hands down, from Proviso East,” said Phillips, who said he has coached Buenrostro since she was nine.
“Most girls are really good at playing from the baseline, but she’s a really good net player. She has really good touch and finesse. She can hit slice. She can hit spin and she can volley at net — and that’s what makes her so successful.”
Martina Mc Ellistrim, the varsity girls’ tennis coach at East, said if Buenrostro had been able to compete at state this year, she would have likely made it further than she ever has in her previous appearances.
The East senior lost first-round matches in the state tournament during her freshman and sophomore years, and an ankle injury kept her from making the tournament her junior year.
In order to qualify for state this year, Buenrostro had to beat the top-rated player at Oak Park and River Forest High School. She also took third place in the Whitney Young sectional.
“She’s become a more strategic and a more focused player,” said Mc Ellistrim. “She planned her moves and she was always two or three moves ahead of her opponent.”
Buenrostro, an honors student who made the All-Conference Academic Team, said she promised herself at the beginning of the season that she’d enjoy her last year of high school tennis.
“I was sad that there wasn’t a state tournament, but, of course, I understand it was the smartest and safest decision to ensure the safety of all players and families,” she stated in the district’s statement.
“We are so proud of Ms. Buenrostro for the resolve she has shown both on and off the court,” said D209 Supt. James Henderson. “She has truly beat the odds and sealed a strong legacy for herself and Proviso sorts. She and all of our athlete scholars should be more than proud of their accomplishments.”