Girls tennis: Looking back at a memorable weekend at state
Two tennis seasons, two fantastic feats.
Stevenson junior ace Sarah Wang, who opted not to play prep tennis as a freshman, won her second straight Class 2A singles title Saturday at Buffalo Grove.
Her remarkable two-year stretch on the courts deserves a closer look.
The Patriot lost only once last fall but avenged it by defeating Lake Forest's Autumn Rabjohns in the state final. Wang's only blemish this fall was a retirement at No. 1 singles in a dual versus New Trier.
Wang won all six of her matches at state this year in straight sets, including a 7-5, 6-2 defeat of Plainfield North sophomore Jessica Kovalchik in the championship match.
Autumn's sister, Northwestern sophomore Kiley Rabjohns, captured back-to-back 2A singles tiles in 2018-19.
Northwestern-bound Autumn Rabjohns (100-9 career record) received the 2A Pitchford Sportsmanship Award last weekend. The annual recognition is named after former Arlington and Hersey tennis coach and longtime state tennis tournament director Tom Pitchford, who died in 1988 at the age of 54.
A Wildcat, a Bear and a Lion:
Libertyville senior Margaret Forkner finished sixth at state in 2A singles for the second year in a row last weekend.
But her path to the medal in 2022 differed greatly than the one she took as a junior. Forkner lost to Kovalchik in a quarterfinal on Friday and then went 2-1 in the back draw.
In 2021 she absorbed a setback in the first round before netting seven straight victories in the back draw to reach the match for fifth place.
"It was a little easier this year," the Lehigh-bound Forkner admitted.
Wildcats coach Dan Kiernan, on Forkner: "She'll be missed. Maggie isn't just a very good tennis player; she's also nice and respectful."
Lake Zurich sophomore and two-time state qualifier Katrine Boianov also lost to Kovalchik in the main draw but bounced back to win three matches in the back draw and finish seventh-eighth.
Boianov has two more seasons to become the first Bear in program history to medal at state.
And St. Viator junior Meredith Garcia finished seventh-eighth at the 1A state singles tournament. The Lion edged Glenbard South's Lorenza FosterSimbulan 2-6, 6-3 (14-12 super tiebreaker) in a consolation semifinal.
Back (draw) stories:
A tip of the tennis visor to Stevenson senior doubles partners Ainika Hou and Sonia Mehta for going a combined 11-1 in back-draw matches and helping the Patriots collect team trophies at the last two 2A state tennis tournaments.
Hou/Mehta lost a first-round match at the 2021 state meet and then pulled off the improbable by notching eight straight back-draw wins to finish in fifth place.
The pair went 3-1 in consolation-round tests after losing a Round of 16 match last Thursday.
Team Stevenson tied for runner-up honors at state last fall and took third at state last weekend.
Sarah earned silver:
Wang struck shots for an all-star Midwest section team against the nation's best netters in a "Battle of the Sections" competition this past summer.
The Midwest squad finished second.
Wang recalled the experience at a Buffalo Grove invite last month.
"I was the worst player on my team," she said.
Hard to believe.
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's 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.