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updated: 9/22/2012 7:09 PM

Elgin Academy, host Royals share Larkin Invite crown

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By Marty Maciaszek
Daily Herald Correspondent

Elgin Academy junior Makena Barickman turned out to be blissfully unaware of the stakes in her final No. 2 singles match in Saturday afternoon's Larkin Invitational girls tennis tournament in Elgin.

Barickman and Elgin's Melissa Wu had split their first two sets and were headed to a 10-point super tiebreaker in the final match of the day. And Elgin Academy was a point behind Larkin in the standings of the four-team round-robin event.

But Barickman rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 10-4 victory as defending champion Elgin Academy shared the team title with the Royals with 9 points.

"It would have put a lot of pressure on me," Barickman said with a smile of a case where lack of knowledge was powerful. "I had a little idea it was close but I had no idea how close."

Elgin Academy won both doubles titles in its second year in the tourney and Larkin's Stephanie Shee won the No. 2 singles title. Elgin was third with 6 points as emerging freshman Dahlia Keonavongsa won the No. 1 singles crown.

Barickman, who has played most of the year at doubles, had lost a 10-point super tiebreaker to Shee as Elgin Academy and Larkin split their dual 2-2. But she carried the momentum from her second set win over Wu to quickly take control in the crucial super tiebreaker.

"I just knew I could pull it out in the second set and the tiebreaker," Barickman said. "I knew she had played a really long one (Wu's super-tiebreaker win over Streamwood's Stephanie Sakyi) and I felt I had it in me."

The Hilltoppers didn't lose a doubles set with Jordan Kaufman and Kayla Schwan at No. 1 and Sedona Georgeson and Sofia Skok at No. 2.

"We switched up the lineup a little bit so we're all pretty pleased with how we played," Barickman said.

Shee continued her consistent play for Larkin and lost only 6 games in her final two matches after her super-tiebreak win over Barickman.

"I've been really consistent," Shee said of her season. "This was a goal of mine and I knew I could come close."

Junior Meryl Hansana took second at No. 1 singles after a hard-fought loss to Keonavongsa and the doubles teams of Michelle Sin and Wanda Sihanath at No. 1 and Megan Santhorn-Nicole Lewellyn at No. 2 were second to give Larkin a much-needed morale boost.

"It's our first time in a Saturday tournament this year to see how they've improved and to be able to watch them in matches back-to-back-to-back was eye-opening to me," said first-year Larkin coach Kevin Schillerstrom. "I could really see what things are working and what aren't and a lot of things we've been working on are working. A lot of things we're having trouble with are coming around now."

Schillerstrom was also impressed with Hansana's battle in her 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 loss to Keonavongsa. Hansana rallied from a 4-1 deficit to even the second set at 5-5 before Keonavongsa held on.

"That was a really tough match," Keonavongsa said. "I had played her before and it wasn't as tough as today.

"I got really frustrated and normally that doesn't happen. I've known her a long time and she played really well today. What really helped was my coach encouraging me and not giving up."

The tall left-hander gave up only 5 games in her other two victories and said she has lost only three times all season. She started playing in kindergarten but said she is more focused and serious about the sport now that she has four years of USTA tournament experience.

"My most important goal (this year) is to make it to state and advance," Keonavongsa said. "My dad has talked to me about that for awhile."

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