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updated: 10/7/2011 9:33 PM

Stevenson nets NSC championship

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By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent

Alexxis Kiven's right little toe is all better now.

The Stevenson sophomore tennis player busted it a few weeks ago, on a door at home.

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"It was dark when I did it," the Patriots' No. 1 singles player recalled at Friday's North Suburban Conference girls tennis meet at Lakes.

"Embarrassing," she added. "It also was embarrassing."

As the dinky digit healed, Kiven taped it up and took it fairly easy at practices.

"I was able to do some light hitting," she said.

Friday, after the final at No. 1 singles final, Kiven deserved lots of high fives -- and not just because she was able to play on 10 healthy toes.

Kiven, third at No. 1 singles at last fall's NSC Meet, downed Lake Forest sophomore Elizabeth Zordani 6-0, 7-6 (8-6) to earn a first-place medal in sunny, balmy conditions. Three other Pats entrants captured flight championships Friday at the five-flight meet, as Stevenson (38 points) topped the 14-team field.

Reigning NSC and state champion Lake Forest (32) finished runner-up.

"I've never seen Alexxis play better than she did in the first set of that final," said Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope. "She hit shots to the corners, a foot inside the baseline, every time. And it didn't matter what the wind was doing.

"The game plan against Zordani (half of last year's state runner-up doubles team)," he added, "was to move her around, because Zordani is very good at taking the ball on the rise."

Stevenson's Kendall Kirsch -- one of four freshmen in Stanhope's NSC Meet lineup -- didn't lose a game at No. 2 singles until her final match, where she bested LF senior Megan Morris 6-2, 6-1.

"I wanted to be consistent (against Morris); the wind was a factor," said Kirsch, ranked No. 15 in the Midwest (14-and-under singles). "Early in points, I didn't want to go for too much."

But when an opponent gives Kirsch a short ball, Kirsch goes for it -- and usually finishes the point near the net.

Emphatically.

"Kendall anticipates so well," Stanhope said. "You add her high foot speed to that, and she's there, waiting … and in good position to hit the next shot wherever she wants."

Stevenson freshmen Zoe Manion and Kaylin Dong edged LF's Cat Orfanos/Colleen Morris 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in the No. 2 doubles final Friday; Pats freshman Michelle Tulchinskaya and junior Elizabeth Ettleson also survived a taut title match (1-6, 7-6, 6-2), beating LF Scouts Erin Hart/Haley Killam at No. 3 doubles.

Lake Forest, which won all five flights at last year's NSC Meet, netted its lone championship at No. 1 doubles Friday. Junior Taya Zoubareva and sophomore Victoria Falk squeaked by Patriots Gabby Demchenko/Danielle Vasiliev 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.

It looked like a hyper-competitive match at state … late, at state.

Vasiliev, serving at 3-4 in the third set, saved two break points, and Demchenko's wicked forehands ended highly entertaining points in the final few games.

The Stevenson duo had three break points to go up 5-4, on Falk's serve, but the LF tandem won five straight points to hold and then went up 15-love on Demchenko's serve in the 10th game. Demchenko/Vasiliev later shook off a match point against, before a near ace by Demchenko on a deuce point let to another clutch hold.

Zoubareva/Falk lost only one point in each of the final two games.

"It was tough and it was intense," said Demchenko, who teamed with Vasiliev to win a sectional doubles championship last fall. "We played with a lot of heart.

"I love tennis," she added. "Tennis is my life. There are days, I must admit, when I feel like breaking my racket in half; it can be such a physically, and mentally, draining sport. But there are a lot of days when I feel like crying tears of joy. Like today. I'm so proud of what my team did. I'm having kind of a hard time grasping what our team did."

Team Libertyville finished third, eerily matching its third-place total (20.5 points) at last year's conference meet. Wildcats MK Lee/Arantxa Garcia-Escobar took third at No. 1 doubles, while senior Sarah Paulson -- the school's No. 1 singles player since her freshman year -- contributed a fourth-place effort.

Warren ended up fourth (18.5 points), ahead of Mundelein (5th, 15.5) and NSC Prairie division champ Vernon Hills (6th, 12.5). A pair of Nicoles -- Suchsland and Nelson -- paced Warren by taking third at No. 3 doubles in the final match of their prep careers; singles standouts Ari Dechter (3rd place, No. 1) and Ali MacDonald (3rd, No. 2) lifted Mundelein; and Vernon Hills' Monica Lozovaty/Rachel Jacoby bronzed at No. 2 doubles.

Lakes' top netter Friday was Stephanie Lass (6th place, No. 2 singles), and Lake Zurich's Emily Leahy/Lauryn Schaal won four straight back-draw matches to finish fifth at No. 3 doubles.

One of the biggest upsets at the two-day tourney had nothing to do with action on a court.

The beautiful, July-like weather stunned a lot of folks.

"I owe somebody something," said Lakes coach/meet director Bryan Plinske. "You couldn't have asked for better conditions than these.

"I remember a conference meet, not too long ago, when practically everybody involved had parkas on and hoods up. Cold … so cold."

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