Batavia girls tennis coach Brad Nelson didn't know exactly what to expect prior to Saturday's St. Charles East-Mary Carlson Invitational.
"We had some question marks coming in," said Nelson. "We lost our (No.) 1 singles player to graduation and our (No.) 2 singles player, (Liza) Fruendt, is concentrating on basketball this year. Then one of our doubles players hurt her ankle last week and is on crutches."
Perhaps that is why Nelson couldn't hide his feelings after watching the Bulldogs earn a second-place finish (51 points) in the 8-team tournament.
"I am absolutely thrilled with the performance," said Nelson, whose team sent players to the finals in 5 of the 8 singles and doubles groupings. "We had some shifting that went on but our depth kind of shined through today. We've got people who can fill roles and do the job."
At first doubles, senior Jenny Mizikar and junior Amelia Cogan survived a 3-set semifinal match with Naperville Central's Meaghan Bedigian and Sara Furukawa (5-7, 6-4, 10-8) before defeating Benet's Margaret Wilhelm and Katie Telford in straight sets (6-0, 6-2) in the finals.
"We definitely played our game in the finals," said Mizikar, who combined with Cogan for a top-32 state showing last season. "We were a little tentative in our first couple matches, and I think it took me two matches to warm up."
Mizikar was looking forward to playing St. Charles East's top doubles team of Kelsie Roberton and Haydyn Jones but the Saints' duo switched with teammates Alexa and Carly Huskisson for the day.
"I was kind of hoping to play (St. Charles) East to see how they are but our other team got to play them," said Mizikar.
At third doubles, senior Caroline Lantz and freshman Julianne Robinson provided Batavia's other title effort with a 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Naperville Central's Jamie Yoon and Emily Girgis.
"That third doubles win was huge," said Nelson, who also got second-place finishes from Megan Garvin (third singles), Holly Smorczewski (fourth singles), and Brooke LeFevre/Sydnee Unterberg (second doubles).
"We definitely exceeded my expectations coming in," added Nelson.
Naperville Central repeated as the tourney champion (57 points), sweeping the 4 singles groupings behind Tiffany Chen, Cindy Liu, Cass Goldner and Hannah Swarm while placing second at third and fourth doubles.
"Last year was the first time we've won this tournament in 19 years so it's nice to win again," said Redhawks coach Don Bonet. "We do have some good players at the top of our lineup and we have some depth. It's a nice combination to have."
Chen, who placed fourth in the state as a freshman a year ago, claimed the first singles title with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Geneva junior Kirby Einck.
"I started our strong today and I managed to play really well against Kirby, who is a great player," said Chen, who edged Einck in a 3-set match earlier this season. "I see a lot of myself in Kirby. She's just a very steady player who gets the ball back and can put it away."
Bonet has noticed a few subtle differences in Chen's game since last season.
"She's a little bigger and stronger this year," said the coach. "She has a consistency to her game and she's always been focused out there."
Despite the loss, Einck has been pleased with her early season start.
"I played a little better today but she (Chen) also had a really good day," said Einck, who helped pace the Vikings to a sixth-place team showing (32 points). "I'm pretty satisfied with how the season is going so far. I've beaten some real good players."
At second singles, Geneva's Grace Krueger earned a 6-1, 6-1 third-place victory over St. Charles East's Jaci Spoerl.
The fourth-place Saints (36 points) captured titles at second and fourth doubles, respectively.
Fresh from their first-place finish at last weekend's Fremd Invitational, Roberton and Jones kept