Emily Stefancic received a rude awakening when reporting to Schaumburg High School Thursday morning for opening-day action of the IHSA girls state tennis tournament.
As the IMSA sectional champion, the West Aurora junior was hit with a double whammy.
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"I thought I was going to be seeded (in the top 32) for being a sectional champion," Stefancic said.
Not only was the Blackhawks' junior not seeded but also forced to play a sectional runner-up, Joliet West senior Caitlin Shea, in first-round play.
"We're still not sure what happened (with the pairing)," West Aurora coach Tad Keely said. "Everyone (Stefancic) lost to this year was a top 17-32 seed. She should have played a third or fourth (sectional finisher). We're going to send an email to the state to see why (Stefancic was seeded so low)."
Shea dispatched Stefancic (27-8) to the consolation bracket with a straight-sets win, and the episode proved to be emblematic for all the local qualifiers.
The season is either over or the other area contestants are fighting for their existence in the back draw after first-day play at sites throughout the northwestern suburbs.
Stefancic did rebound well with back-to-back wins in the consolation bracket.
After a hard-fought win over Edwardsville sophomore Mallory Abert, Stefancic was pitted against Moline junior Olivia Ray for a second time this season.
In a similar script to their regular-season match, the Blackhawks' junior was magnificent with a withering away of ground strokes -- many of which resulted in clean winners -- in the 6-0, 6-2 victory.
"(Ray) was giving me the perfect shots to get winners," Stefancic said. "I almost had an up on her because I beat her earlier this year."
Inclement weather wiped out the final round at Schaumburg, meaning Stefancic will face off against O'Fallon junior Tori Lindsay at Rolling Meadows this morning.
Stefancic, making a third consecutive state appearance, has to win out to finish fifth.
"I want to finish as high as I can," Stefancic said.
Geneva sophomore Kirby Einck had match-clinching 6-0 victories in her opening two contests.
But Mundelein junior Ari Dechter knocked Einck out of championship-bracket play with a third-round win.
Kaneland was the only area program with more than one competing qualifier or doubles team.
Sophomore Sammie Schrepferman had her singles season come to a close with back-to-back defeats for Kaneland, but the doubles tandem of Madi Jurcenko and Angelica 'Jelly' Emmanouil are still alive after consecutive wins to begin their tournament.
The duo also fell victim to the top squad from Oak Park-River Forest in third-round play.
Batavia partners Jenny Mizikar and Amelia Cogan, the IMSA champions, are in the same boat after Decatur St. Teresa sisters Tracy and Amy Kuhle snapped their two-match winning streak in the third round.
The Rosary tandem of Andrea Goyao and Megan Conlin have a date with Homewood-Flossmoor partners Sophia Osabuohien and Timara Maxwell after a 2-1 day.
St. Charles East juniors Haydyn Jones and Kelsie Roberton were eliminated from further competition after consecutive defeats followed a first-round win.
"I knew they weren't going to win their second match (against Nazareth seniors Alysa Straub and Lexi Petrovic) because they were a 3-4 seed," St. Charles East coach Sena Drawer said.
O'Fallon juniors Elizabeth Wolf and Lexi Newcomb ended the Saints' first state appearance with a comfortable second-set triumph following a first-set tiebreaker.
"I think they were just worn out (after the tiebreaker)," Drawer said. "It was tough in the wind and cold."