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updated: 10/13/2012 10:04 PM

Surprise: Sectional title to Conant

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By Jonathan Jones
Daily Herald Correspondent

Conant was crowned sectional champion Saturday after the rain-saturated outdoors site at Schaumburg was left behind in favor of Centre Court Athletic Club in Hanover Park on Saturday afternoon.

Conant (21 points) edged out Rolling Meadows and Fremd (20 points apiece) for the team championship. Prospect finished in fourth place with 15 points and Hoffman Estates took fifth with 10.

"Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised," said Conant coach Dave Koleno. "I knew our girls had it in them, but it was a matter of them stepping up their game. I was extremely happy for both (singles players) qualifying. I'm just as proud of the rest of the team.

"I had no idea what to expect. I was really happy with the way the girls responded. They've had a really good attitude all year."

In singles, Hoffman Estates junior Courtney Lang (18-3) will bring her rackets along for a third straight state tournament after notching her second straight sectional singles title. Following a bye in the first round, she defeated St. Viator's Sabina Raslawski 6-1, 6-0, Rolling Meadows junior Erin Barry 6-1, 6-0, Conant freshman Aya Okuda 6-1, 6-0 and Fremd junior Amy Byrne 6-0, 6-0.

"I never count anyone out at any point," Lang said. "They can play their best game and win. You can't underestimate anyone. I feel I've improved this year. I've been working hard on my weaknesses to try to make them my strengths."

Okuda (14-10) and Conant senior Kano Jockish both earned state tournament berth by taking third and fourth place, respectively. The two ultimately competed one another in the third-place match, which Okuda won 6-2, 7-5.

Jockish (11-14) came through with an upset win over second-seeded Prospect freshman Natalie Lysik 6-2, 7-5. Jockish was a key factor in the Cougars winning the tournament.

"I just had to play my game, and it worked out," said Okuda, who considers her teammate Jockish a close friend -- except when it comes to competing.

"I show no mercy," she said. "Tennis and friendship are different. I didn't expect I would be on varsity, let alone first singles this season. This is a great opportunity."

Rolling Meadows sisters Allie and Jackie Kemph added to their legacy of postseason success by qualifying for state second straight time. This time, though, they did it by winning a sectional title.

The Kemphs (23-8) topped Prospect's Katie Best/Christina Santiago 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinal and Fremd's Courtney Norenberg/Holly Kometer 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 for first place.

Key for the Meadows duo was a strong semifinal effort, when they trailed sharply in the first set against Best/Santiago. The Kemphs won five straight games to win that first set and ultimately grab the victory.

"It really helped (that we played many of these teams in conference because we need to follow our strategy, and I think we pretty much did," said Jackie Kemph. "We're going to come out with more confidence this year (in the state tournament)."

Fremd sent two representatives to the state tournament, junior Amy Byrne (22-12) and Norenberg/Kometer (13-6). It will be the first state trip for all of them.

"It's amazing -- I'm pretty shocked," Byrne said. "I went in with confidence and I felt had that I had nothing to lose. It worked out. Going in, I knew who I was playing, but most of the girls I had to figure out during the match."

Prospect advanced both its doubles teams to the state tournament, as Best/Santiago played sophomore Alexandra Gorodiski and junior Lauren Saiki in the third-place doubles match.

"This was always a goal, and it's just really exciting for the kids," said Prospect coach Mike McColaugh. "I told them 'You're young. You're going to have a lot of moments in your life, but you'll remember the day you passed two teams through to state.' It's a big day for Prospect."

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