Created:Tuesday, June 25, 2013 11:38 p.m.CDT
Updated:Wednesday, June 26, 2013 8:22 a.m.CDT
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CLC grad Nelle Youel takes qualifying title

Former Crystal Lake Central tennis player Nelle Youel won the Midwest sectional U.S. Open qualifier Tuesday and advances on to the national playoffs in August. (Photo provided)

Nelle Youel’s start wasn’t great.

But after falling behind Syracuse’s Maddie Kobelt 5-4 in the first set of her U.S. Open Midwest Sectional championship match Tuesday in Mason, Ohio, Youel – a former Crystal Lake Central tennis player – got her game rolling.

Youel rebounded from a “shaky” start and posted a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Kobelt to advance to the U.S. Open National Playoffs in August in New Haven, Conn. The winner earns a berth in the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

For Youel – who plays collegiately at Northern Illinois – the idea of moving a step closer to a Grand Slam event was hard to fathom.

“It’s still surreal to me. I never would have thought about that prior to coming here,” Youel said. “I knew it would be a tough tournament, and to be that much closer is just unbelievable.”

Youel becomes the second McHenry County native to advance to the national playoffs. Former Prairie Ridge tennis player Sam Sweeney will compete in the national qualifier in mixed doubles.

Sweeney, who lives in New York, recently paired with partner Tarakaa Bertrand in the USTA Eastern qualifier and knocked off last year’s champion, Alison Adamski and Keith Kessler, in a 7-6 (5), 4-6, [10-5] victory.

Like Sweeney’s match, Youel was forced to grind out Tuesday’s match before pulling away in the second set to move one step closer to a spot in the U.S. Open.

“Every point I just thought ‘this is the only point that matters, this is the only point you can do anything about’ so I just tried to take it point-by-point,” Youel said. “[Kobelt’s] serve was really on today, it got me a lot of times.

So I was focusing on blocking the return back, and starting the point from there, and that’s really all I could do. Thankfully it worked out today.”