Naperville C. wins St. Charles East invitational
St. Charles East coach Sena Drawer had such a big smile after totaling up the results of the Saints' annual invitational Saturday afternoon she had her players double and triple check her math.
When their total matched her total showing the Saints had climbed in the standings from sixth last year to third and finished ahead of Upstate Eight Conference River foes Batavia and Geneva, Drawer asked her assistants to again double check her math.
And their total again matched Drawer leaving the Saints with 43 points to trail only Naperville Central (52) and Benet (50) in the seven-team tournament.
"We're very happy," Drawer said. "They are young. A lot of them played up levels that were really hard for them last year. We had realistic expectations (last year) but this year I have high expectations and everyone has filled in so beautifully. Today they did a really nice job all the way through, one through four singles, one through four doubles, everyone carried their weight."
Perhaps the only coach happier was the one of the winning team, the Redhawks' Don Bonet, who has had a few near misses but had never taken the team title.
"We hadn't won this in 19 years. I know because it was the year before I started," Bonet said. "We've been close many times so it's nice to win this one, it's nice for the girls."
With the ACT taking place Saturday Bonet didn't have a single senior, and six of the 12 in his lineup were playing their first varsity tournament.
The Redhawks won second and third singles and took second at first and fourth singles and first doubles.
Freshman Tiffany Chen was one of those players in her first varsity tournament and she made it to the No. 1 singles final before losing to Wheaton Warrenville South's Keisha Clausing. Sharon Pan reached the fourth singles championship before losing 6-2, 6-4 to Batavia sophomore Sydney Unterberg.
Cindy Liu won the No. 2 singles title by beating Batavia's Liza Fruendt in the semifinals and Benet's Coco Tzakis in the championship. Sara Furukawa also defeated a Benet player in the final, Maggie Wilhelm 6-2, 6-1, helping make the difference in the team standings. (Benet also was missing its No. 1 singles player after she withdrew following an injury Thursday.)
"Everyone played solid," Bonet said. "Everyone got out of the fist round except one position and that's always the big thing getting past that first round.
"We're just pleased with everyone today. We still have some things to work on but we knew we'd be solid."
Benet swept all four doubles titles led by Mary Beth King and Daniella Reyes winning 6-2, 6-3 over Naperville Central's Meaghan Bedigian and Cass Goldner at No. 1.
"I think we had a really good day today," King said. "We had a little bit of trouble in our semifinal (against Batavia) and I think that made us tougher. We approached well, we worked together well as a team. Daniella served well. The combination of that really helped us out today."
Reyes said another key was how the duo, now in their third year playing together, handled the wind.
"I think we worked really well together," Reyes said. "We kept ourselves positive and pumped up and I think that was the main part. We covered each other a lot. The wind was really crazy, on the volley points we were running across the court but we had each other's back for that."
Benet's toughest match turned out to be in the semifinals against Batavia's Jenny Mizikar and Amelia Cogan. They dropped the first set before battling back to force a tiebreaker which they won 10-7.
"The second set we started volleying more and hitting our ground strokes better," King said. "The tiebreaker we really wanted to get a lead and I think that's what won it for us."
Mizikar and Cogan weren't disappointed finishing third which tied Fruendt's third-place finish at No. 2 singles for Batavia's best place besides Unterberg's fourth singles title. No. 1 singles player Miranda Grizaffi finished fourth as Batavia totaled 39 points to take fourth as a team.
"We had kind of a rough first match so we wanted to get our game back," Mizikar said of an opening win over Geneva's Kelsey Hess and Bridget Weitzel. "We weren't super sad that we lost (to Benet) because we know we played better."
Now in their second year together, Mizikar and Cogan seem comfortable on the court together. Mizikar is known as the half that "sets up" the point with Cogan's role as "the finisher."
"You need to be real close because you need to tell each other criticisms without getting mad at each other," Mizikar said.
Cogan said the Benet loss is something that can help Batavia going forward.
"They are a great team and I like to play people like we like to play which is a little more hard-paced," Cogan said.
Fruendt won her first match 10-6 in a tiebreaker, lost her second 10-7 in a tiebreaker before defeating Geneva's Emma Hazell 6-3, 6-4 for third.
Geneva finished sixth led by Kirby Einck taking third at No. 1 singles and the Vikings' No. 2 doubles team Margo Hess and Joanie Educate doing the same.
At practice Thursday Vikings coach Maureen Weiler mixed up her top two doubles lineups and liked what she saw from both new pairings Saturday. Hess and Educate defeated Wheaton North's Lisa Waterman and Jordan Willhoit for third.
"I'm really pleased with their progress," Weiler said. "They started slow which I'd expect because they are playing new together but by the end of the day both teams are feeling really confident. They started a little tentative but got better and better in each match.
"I just kind of had to do that. The other way wasn't working. You want to see kids get better throughout the season and the doubles teams that were out there didn't seem like they were getting better. It felt like they were going the other way so we had to try something else."
After winning her opener 6-0, 6-0, Einch lost to Chen 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 — the only player to beat her this year — before defeating Grizaffi 6-1, 6-0 for third.
"She had a good first set (against Chen) and then didn't bring it," Weiler said. "She's a fighter so I'm sure she'd like to play her again."
Doubles play led St. Charles East's rise to third in the standings — the Saints finished second at second, third and fourth doubles. Junior twins Alexa and Carly Huskisson fought hard in a 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) loss to Benet in the No. 2 doubles title match.
"They have all the Ps — they have patience, they have poise, they have positioning, they have placement, they are just not big power hitters," Drawer said. "They have all the rest. They don't freak, they are athletes. They played a lot of soccer so they are used to intense competition. Their disposition never changes, it's just wonderful to watch."
The Saints' other runner-up finishes came from Lauren McNally and Emmy Russell at third doubles and Miranda Reed and Brooke Rinker at fourth doubles, both duos playing up a spot from their normal position in the lineup.
Drawer also pointed to Sarah Church playing under the weather but battling for a 6-2, 3-6, (10-7) victory for fifth place at No. 1 singles.
"She held in there," Drawer said. "That kid never gives up. She just works hard all the time."
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