There are tennis players who step away from the high school scene for a year to compete in tournaments in an attempt to gain more national exposure.
But Kendall Kirsch had a much different and less enjoyable reason for missing almost all of her sophomore season at Stevenson. The inflammation of her joints in her upper body led to breathing problems that forced her off the court in her second match.
"It was really tough," Kirsch said during Wednesday afternoon's North Suburban Lake dual at Warren. "I missed being on the court and seeing my tennis friends. I forgot what it felt like to win for awhile and I like winning."
Kirsch is enjoying that feeling again with senior Alexxis Kiven at No. 1 doubles. They have lost just once this season and their 6-4, 6-0 victory helped the Patriots improve to 7-0 overall with a 6-1 victory in Gurnee.
Kirsch and Kiven took third in the state in doubles two years ago and their only loss in their reunion season is to Lake Forest standouts Elizabeth and Christina Zordani. They trailed 3-2 to Warren 's Max Mella and Courtney Sunday before taking control.
"We changed our game more in the second set and we were more consistent," Kirsch said. "We played a little smarter and our first-serve percentage increased, which is good. We were also more positive and had a lot more confidence."
It also helps that Kirsch has felt better since she started playing again last winter. Her return, along with junior Zoe Manion, who competed on the tournament circuit last fall, gives the Patriots high hopes.
"It's awesome because we're all just great friends," Kirsch said. "We all get along and it's great to have Zoe back."
Manion stayed perfect at No. 1 singles with a 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) victory over all-state sophomore Karyna Bihel. Manion started the tiebreaker with a pair of tremendous winners on each side of the court.
"I thought I played solid in the first set and hit my shots, but in the second set I got a little tight and she was playing solid," Manion said. "It wasn't like I was giving away any points but she was playing better.
"That (tiebreaker start) was big. It was a big momentum shift. We were both playing pretty well and I was able to fight through it."
Warren coach Vince DeSecki also was impressed with Bihel.
"Karyna fought off 2 match points and showed some mental toughness there," DeSecki said. "That's a step in the right direction for her."
Warren junior Alex Mella, who also played in tourneys last year, stayed perfect with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Vinaya Rao. Mella helped her team win titles for the first time at Champaign and Buffalo Grove.
"It's been really fun being with the team and having them cheer you on," Mella said. "It's going great."
Stevenson got its other wins at No. 3 singles from Rachel Mopper and in doubles from Michelle Tulchiniskaya-Kaylin Dong, Bryn Rubin-Caroline Kelmis and Gwenna Heidkamp-Thalia Noegroho.
"Warren is a division rival and a tough test for us, but so far so good," said Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope. "I'm real pleased with how hard they are working in practice and we're starting to see some of the improvements."