Noelle and Addison Lanton elevate Elgin Academy tennis

When Elgin Academy senior Noelle Lanton wanted to sign up to play tennis at age 7, her younger sister Addison insisted on signing up as well.

“Addison would come to practice when Noelle played, and she said, ‘I want to play,'” said their mother, Colette. “She was almost 5. Her personality is one where she doesn’t take no for an answer. The rest is history.”

These days, Addison is entering her sophomore season at Elgin Academy as one of the nation’s top college recruiting targets for her age group. A five-star recruit, Lanton is ranked No. 67 nationally.

“It’s really special to me,” Addison said. “I don’t really look at it a lot, but when I get the chance, I’m like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know I was that high up.’ It is unexpected.”

At age 9, Addison started playing in tournaments. By age 11, she was invited to a USTA regional training camp. The evaluations that came out of the camp suggested she needed more specialized training.

“The coach said she has something special,” Colette said. “She has the ‘it’ factor. She checks all the boxes.”

Noelle also could see her sister had the X-factor.

“Addison just has a natural talent for the game,” Noelle said. “She is a really hard worker. She’s really dedicated. She can get really focused. During matches, you can tell she’s really paying attention to what she’s doing.”

Sterling Perez, a Larkin graduate, is entering his fifth season as Elgin Academy’s coach.

When Noelle showed up to tryouts as a freshman, his mentality quickly changed. When Addison joined her, he found himself in a unique position.

“I knew this was the real deal,” Perez said. “It humbled me. I used to teach beginners. We weren’t used to this kind of level.”

When Addison reached high school, a decision was made — she and Noelle would play doubles together.

“I think it went well,” Noelle said. “We have really good chemistry. We’ve been playing together forever, so it’s kind of natural to us.”

The pairing paid immediate dividends. Last season, the sisters finished third in the state last season in Class 1A.

Noelle’s college tennis future is still up in the air. She’s focused on choosing the right school for her and then seeing how tennis fits in, according to Colette.

“I kind of have been avoiding the conversation,” Noelle said. “I know this is my last year and it’s my big dream to win state with Addison. I also do want to play tennis in college, and hopefully pursue that and stay involved in the sport.

“If I completely let go of it, I would feel like I’m missing a part of my life.”

Addison’s tennis aspirations go even higher. Despite her only playing one season of high school tennis, NCAA Division I coaches have already shown interest.

“I need to find a home that’s somewhat like Elgin, although it won’t be anything like that,” Addison said. “I have to find something I really trust. It really has to be a bond for me to go there.”

Many players of Addison’s caliber wind up having to be home-schooled due to the extensive travel.

Colette said Elgin Academy, where Addison has gone since kindergarten, has worked with her to allow a typical high school path.

“I’m very thankful I get to have a normal life and still pursue what I want to do,” Addison said.

Before the future arrives, however, the sisters are hoping to make more memories in their final season together.

“Knowing Noelle is going off to college next year, we have one more chance,” Addison said. “We have to make it special for her and for me too.”

Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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