Girls tennis: Stevenson's Wang nets 2nd straight state title
After winning her second Class 2A singles championship in a row at Saturday's girls tennis state tournament at Buffalo Grove, Stevenson junior Sarah Wang figured she had better hit something else off the courts -- the books.
"I should probably catch up on my schoolwork, beginning later today," the top-seeded Wang said in the wake of her 7-5, 6-2 defeat of Plainfield North sophomore and 3-4 seed Jessica Kovalchik, who used heavy groundstrokes and sheer dauntlessness to take a 5-3 lead in the first set.
Recent history -- Wang's sustained success on tennis courts, not the name of a social studies course that Wang might have fallen behind in -- played a vital role in the Patriot's turnaround in balmy and occasionally gusty conditions.
"I do very little," Stevenson coach Jose Morales said. "What you saw out there, that's all Sarah. Tough situations don't bother her in the least. She never cracks in a match. Never. She's unbelievable.
"What helps her a lot is her strong mentality," the coach added. "If she loses a point, all she's thinking is, 'Next point, next point, next point.' "
Stevenson netted 28 team points to take third, behind runner-up New Trier (29) and reigning champion Hinsdale Central (32), which captured its 12th state title in 17 years behind senior Sophia Kim's third-place effort in singles.
Stevenson's other two state-qualifying entrants -- Ainika Hou/Sonia Mehta and Abby Ma/Ana Sukovic -- each fell one doubles victory shy of playing for fifth place in 2A. They, like Wang, went undefeated in Friday's busy, high-level action to position the Pats in sturdy trophy territory.
Fenwick had never claimed a state trophy in girls tennis -- or fielded a state championship singles player or doubles team -- before Saturday.
The Friars erased "never" twice in the Class 1A state tournament Saturday. Sophomore Lily Brecknock downed Wolcott senior Brooklyn Siegel 6-2, 6-4 in the final, pacing the Friars' 1A-record-tying point total (39) in the team standings. Runner-up Latin tallied 29.
Brecknock rapped an ace on match point.
"I asked Lily, 'Was that your first ace of the tournament?' " longtime Fenwick coach Gerard Sullivan said. "She told me, 'Maybe.'
"Intensity, timing, belief in herself ... Lily used all of that to win today," the coach continued. "Absorbing the power of Brooklyn's powerful shots kept her in points. Some of the shots Lily blocked, I'm sure made Brooklyn wonder, 'What do I have to do to get a shot by her?' "
What Elgin Academy sisters Addison and Noelle Lanton did together Saturday was a first in school history -- in any sport. The sisters (Noelle is a senior, Addison a sophomore) won a state championship, skipping to a 6-1, 6-3 defeat of Chicago University's Sanskriti Sarav/Paola Almeda in the 1A doubles final a year after placing third.
Elgin Academy first opened its doors in 1839, the same year United States Army Officer and Cavalry Commander George Armstrong Custer was born.
"I started to shake, right after match point," Hilltoppers coach Sterling Perez said. "I'm still overwhelmed with excitement. Their chemistry was different this year, better. Noelle and Addison were more prepared and it showed, because of the work they put in during the offseason. Proud; I'm so proud of them.
"College tennis coaches," he added, "are interested in Addison."
Naperville North's sophomore duo of Brooke Coffman and Gabby Lee, meanwhile, earned a virtual degree in Advanced Doubles during the three-day tournament. Seeded 5-8 a year after finishing 9th-12th in 2A doubles at state, the pair of Huskies reached the 2A doubles final Saturday afternoon against reigning state champions Lainey Oneil/Isabelle Chong of Lake Forest.
The Scouts repeated, solving Coffman/Lee 6-1, 6-2.
"They're two great singles players who know how to dominate in doubles," Lee said of the sterling Scouts, who lost one doubles match -- one! -- since the start of the 2021 season.
"We weren't used to this situation, this kind of pressure (in the semis and final), but we proved something this weekend, proved we can battle with the state's top teams," Coffman noted about 24 hours after she and Lee edged Deerfield's formidable second-seeded tandem, Natalie Schoen/Abigail Lee, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-5 in a semifinal.
Fenwick also received strong showings from sophomore Megan Trifilio (third place, 1A singles); Rachel Abraham/Maeve Paris (sixth, doubles); and Trinity Hardin/Kate Trifilio (seventh-eighth, doubles).
"Those two (Abraham/Paris, seeded 9-16) have confidence coming out of their ears," Sullivan gushed. "They played well beyond others' expectations at state."
Hinsdale Central's pair of doubles entrants combined for 19 team points in 2A, with Bridget Novatney/Nicole Hu taking third and Shannon Stover/Abigail Gambla finishing sixth.
Red Devils senior Prachi Shah went 2-2 in singles for the state champs.
The perennial powerhouse pocketed 3 crucial points Saturday. The team point Novatney/Hu earned by beating Deerfield's Schoen/Lee 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 in the match for bronze in doubles triggered a sea of Red Devils teammates and friends swarming the court.
"This team had to dig deep," HC coach Shawna Zsinko said. "We didn't come here overly confident."
Aces & dinks:
York sophomore Lizzie Isyanov planned to cap her sweet tennis day at Portillo's Saturday afternoon. "I'm going to have a piece of chocolate cake," she said after topping Libertyville senior Margaret Forkner 6-4, 6-4 in the 2A singles match for fifth place. "Chocolate cake, with a hot dog," the Duke elaborated. ... Forkner's sixth-place showing matched her performance at the 2021 state tournament. "Gave everything I had in my last go-around," the Wildcat said. "Lizzie kept me on the run, stayed in the points." Added Isyanov: "Hit deep and be consistent -- that was my strategy against a very hard hitter." ... Timothy Christian junior Crystina Lee bowed 6-0, 6-1 to Richmond-Burton's Savannah Webb in the 1A singles match for fifth place. ... Stevenson's Wang, moments after executing an understated, lefty fist pump following match point in the 2A singles final: "Honestly, I would not have been able to win state without the support of my teammates. Shout-out to all of them. I'd reached a point in the first set where I thought I was going to lose. (Plainfield North's Kovalchik) was controlling the points. She's really good." It took 33 points, including 9 deuces, to complete the first 3 games -- all service breaks -- of the 2A singles final. Kovalchik led 2-1.