Girls tennis: Stevenson's Wang flashes improved game while winning Fall Classic

  • Stevenson's Sarah Wang returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Stevenson's Sarah Wang returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Maggie Forkner hits a hard smash as she charges toward the net during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Libertyville's Maggie Forkner hits a hard smash as she charges toward the net during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Prospect's Kara Pescaru competes during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Prospect's Kara Pescaru competes during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Rolling Meadows' Alexandra Kovalevich returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Rolling Meadows' Alexandra Kovalevich returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Mira Kernagis returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Mira Kernagis returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Buffalo Grove's Mia Whippo returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Buffalo Grove's Mia Whippo returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Hersey's Audrey Zagorski competes during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Hersey's Audrey Zagorski competes during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbrook North's Katelyn Wu returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Glenbrook North's Katelyn Wu returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Deerfield's Liza Gleyzer returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Deerfield's Liza Gleyzer returns the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbrook North's Katelyn Wu chases down the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday.

      Glenbrook North's Katelyn Wu chases down the ball during the Prospect girls tennis invite in Mount Prospect Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/24/2022 9:40 PM

Uh-oh.

Reigning Class 2A girls tennis state singles champion Sarah Wang has added stuff to her game since last fall.

 

Potent stuff.

"I looked around and knew other players were getting better," the Stevenson junior said at Saturday's 16-team Fall Classic invite at Prospect. "I had to improve my game, work on getting to the net more. I also knew that meant trying to get comfortable when I'm out of my comfort zone.

"I had to add weapons."

The new and frighteningly improved Wang captured the No. 1 singles title Saturday in cloudy-turned-sunny Mount Prospect, downing New Trier junior Madison Liu 6-3, 6-2 in a final that featured Wang's still-sound baseline game.

But every now and then, the Patriot scooted to the net and finished points emphatically.

"Sarah is playing much more aggressively and taking more risks to make a statement," Stevenson coach Jose Morales said. "Her net game is better. She dominated last year, but she has improved a ton."

Morales' crew netted the team championship (69 points) behind Wang and championship efforts from a pair of other entrants: No. 1 doubles (Ainika Hou/Sonia Mehta) and No. 3 doubles (Kate Herlihy/Ashley Adkisson).

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New Trier (63) took runner-up honors at the seven-flight, 182-match invite. Deerfield (49) bronzed, followed by Glenbrook North (43), Highland Park (36), Libertyville (33), Glenbard West (28), Oak Park and River Forest (25), Loyola Academy (24) and Prospect (21 points).

Prospect coach Mike McColaugh -- the fun-loving math teacher ran Saturday's challenging show with aplomb -- called the strength of Saturday's No. 1 singles draw "ridiculous" and backed up the assessment by bringing up Conant sophomore Katie Strilich's seed.

"She's an eight seed. Can you believe that?" McColaugh said of the reigning Mid-Suburban League No. 1 singles champ's designation.

Strilich, who hadn't suffered a defeat since state last season, lost a 6-2, 6-0 quarterfinal to Wang and then had to face Fremd junior Alina Shyani, who opted not to play prep tennis last fall but had entered Saturday's action on an equally ridiculous 43-match winning streak dating back to her freshman season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Strilich defeated Shyani 6-1, 6-3 in a consolation-round match.

"My plan was to keep my shots deep," said the Cougar, who wears out her foes with steadiness and battles with a you-can't-tell-if-I'm-winning-or-losing demeanor.

As for the talent-packed bracket?

"Low pressure for me," a grinning Strilich said.

The other Fall Classic flight champions were Libertyville's Lena Dogadalski (No. 2 singles), Highland Park's Nadia Barbieri (No. 3 singles), New Trier's Ariane Lesterhuis/Coco Zabel (No. 2 doubles), and New Trier's Frances Wilson/Claire Ratke (No. 4 doubles).

Glenbard West's Mira Kernagis, a 2021 state qualifier in doubles, solved Libertyville senior Maggie Forkner -- sixth at state in singles last year -- 6-1, 6-1 in the match for third place at No. 1 singles. Kernagis was coming off a 6-4, 6-0 loss to Liu in a semifinal, during which she cracked an entertaining series of sharply angled groundstroke winners in a back-and-forth first set.

The final match of the four-site tourney showcased Stevenson's Hou/Mehta vs. Deerfield's Abbey Lee/Natalie Schoen in the No. 1 doubles final at Prospect. They'd finished fifth and fourth, respectively, at state last autumn. Deerfield's tandem won the first set 6-3 and fell behind 5-0 in the second.

Hou/Mehta then lost 3 straight games before forcing a super-tiebreaker with a 6-3 decision. The Pats' resilient entrant skipped to a 10-3 triumph in the breaker.

"We communicated more than we usually do," Mehta said. "We were thinking strategy, too. Our main plan was to disrupt our opponents' rhythm."

"We relaxed and had fun," Hou added. "Lots of high-fives and smiles. It helped quite a bit, competing with a lighthearted mood."

Dinks: Paced by Rina Matsunaga's runner-up showing at No. 2 singles Saturday, Glenbrook North earned five top-four flight finishes at the Fall Classic. ... Conant (17 points) placed 11th, followed by Fremd (14), Hersey (13), Rolling Meadows (8), Buffalo Grove (6) and Moline (6).

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