Girls tennis: Wang, Stevenson pass their sectional tests

  • Libertyville's Lena Dogadalski returns a shot during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills.

      Libertyville's Lena Dogadalski returns a shot during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Sarah Wang returns a shot during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills.

      Stevenson's Sarah Wang returns a shot during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Sonia Mehta during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills.

      Stevenson's Sonia Mehta during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Hadley Warren and Taya Breslow, left, celebrate a point during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills.

      Libertyville's Hadley Warren and Taya Breslow, left, celebrate a point during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Taya Breslow during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills.

      Libertyville's Taya Breslow during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Hadley Warren during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills.

      Libertyville's Hadley Warren during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Ainika Hou, right, and Sonia Mehta celebrate a point during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills.

      Stevenson's Ainika Hou, right, and Sonia Mehta celebrate a point during the Stevenson tennis sectional held at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex Saturday October 15, 2022 in Vernon Hills. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/15/2022 7:20 PM

Libertyville senior ace Margaret Forkner broke a racket string in the Stevenson girls tennis sectional singles final Saturday afternoon at the Vernon Hills Athletic Complex.

She busted a string in her backup stick about 20 minutes later.

 

Having to play with racket No. 3 in a match is one thing.

Having to play with racket No. 3 against Stevenson junior and reigning Class 2A singles champion Sarah Wang?

Something entirely different.

"I really liked the strings in my first racket," Forkner said.

But the easygoing, personable Wildcat -- sixth at state in singles last fall and the reigning North Suburban Conference No. 1 singles champ -- refused to use unfortunate equipment issues as an excuse after falling 6-0, 6-1 to the resolute Wang in sunny, crisp, gusty conditions.

"I tried to throw variety at her," the Lehigh recruit said, referring to slices, flat whacks, topspin shots and drops. "But, with Sarah, it's always difficult to get one or two things to work for you in a match.

"She's too steady," Forkner added.

Too resilient, too. Wang had displayed that enviable trait in her Saturday morning semifinal versus Libertyville sophomore Lena Dogadalski, who looked sharp and constructed highly effective points while skipping to a 5-2 advantage.

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A major upset was brewing.

But Wang shed her impatience and righted herself impressively, winning the next 5 games to take the first set and netting her second straight sectional title with a decisive 6-1 second set.

"I stopped thinking about everything going on around me and focused on the ball," Wang said of her resurgence. "I tuned everything out but the tennis.

"In the final," the Patriot continued, "I played aggressively and hit a mixture of shots."

Wang's championship effort paced Stevenson (29 points) to the sectional team title. Lake Forest silvered with a 22-point total, just ahead of third-place Libertyville (21). Vernon Hills (12) placed fourth and Warren finished fifth (6) at the eight-team gathering.

The sectional's top four finishers in singles and doubles get to vie medals at next weekend's Class 2A state meet, beginning Thursday at tournament host Buffalo Grove and surrounding sites.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Dogadalski placed third when Lake Forest senior and Northwestern-bound Autumn Rabjohns had to default due to an injury. Rabjohns, one of the state's most creative shotmakers, bowed to Wang in last fall's Class 2A state championship match.

Reigning state doubles champions Lainey Oneil/Isabelle Chong of Lake Forest dropped a scant 7 combined games in four matches en route to Saturday's sectional title. The pair of Scouts downed Stevenson seniors Ainika Hou/Sonia Mehta 6-2, 6-0 in the final after passing their toughest test of the two-day meet, a 6-1, 6-4 semifinal defeat of Stevenson sophomore Abby Ma/freshman Ana Sukovic -- the Pats' No. 2 duo.

Chong, a junior, and the Richmond-bound Oneil have lost only once since the start of the 2021 season.

"They're totally in sync and they anticipate well," LF coach Denise Murphy said. "Lots of 1-2 punches when you watch those two play doubles."

Ma/Sukovic defeated Libertyville juniors Hadley Warren/Taya Breslow 6-2, 6-1 in the doubles match for third place. In a taut state-qualifying match Friday afternoon, Warren/Breslow, seeded fourth, edged the fifth-seeded LF entrant of Angelina Slomba/Nastia Belova 1-6, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (7) in a quarterfinal.

None of the schools at the highly competitive Stevenson sectional advanced a full boat of four entrants to state. Three entrants apiece from Stevenson and Libertyville extended their seasons, while Lake Forest earned a pair of state berths.

Stevenson, Lake Forest and New Trier tied for runner-up honors behind champion Hinsdale Central at state last year.

"Good day," Stevenson second-year coach Jose Morales said Saturday. "Sarah and our two doubles teams got through; that pleased me. Sarah showed her true colors (after trailing in her semi), and I'm proud of how well Abby and Ana competed in the second set against Lake Forest's top doubles team.

"But it's back to work on Monday to prepare for more success at state," he added.

Forkner and her freshly strung rackets will be ready, too.

"I plan to focus on having fun at state right away, instead of feeling tense and worrying about winning my first round," said Forkner, who, as a 9-16 seed at state last year, lost in the first round but won seven consecutive straight-set matches in the back draw before her 6-3, 6-2 loss to New Trier's Madison Liu in the match for fifth place.

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