West Aurora's Stefancic repeats sectional title
During the championship match against Kaneland's Sam Schrepferman Saturday at the West Aurora sectional, Emily Stefancic would occasionally let out a "Let's Go!" or "Now!" to herself.
Stefancic used her intensity and ability to outlast her opponent on many rallies for a 6-2, 6-4 victory. Stefancic won all eight sets she played at the sectional; Oswego East's Jaiere Harlsow came the closest in the semifinals with a 7-5 loss.
It was the second straight sectional title for the senior who finished runner-up in the sectional her first two years at West Aurora.
"I like to keep it intense and it keeps my mind in it," Stefancic said. "I really expect a lot of myself. That's why I'm really intense."
Stefancic and Schrepferman are friends who have played tennis together for years. On several points Schrepferman appeared to be hitting slightly harder but Stefancic, an outstanding baseline player, outlasted Schrepferman by continually getting her returns in.
"I've been in a rut lately," Stefancic said. "I've been struggling with my strokes and keeping my head in the game and things like that. Coming into sectionals I told myself I really need to keep my head on straight and I need to keep getting the ball over one more time than my opponent does. My coaches do an awesome job keeping my head on straight and keeping me focused."
Stefancic, whose younger sister Elizabeth will be a freshman next year at West Aurora, recently committed to Northern Illinois to play college tennis. One of the assistant coaches there is Brian Brooks, the former West Aurora coach.
Stefancic is hoping for one last big bang in high school tennis next weekend at state.
"I'm looking to have a lot of fun knowing it's my last big thing before I leave," Stefancic said. "I'm looking to place in the top 16 which is one round ahead of where I placed last year. I'm hoping to take out a couple really good seeds."
Schrepferman advanced to the sectional championship with a hard-fought 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) win over Oswego East's Sajela Harlow in the semifinals. Her runner-up finish Saturday marked an improvement over her fourth-place finish last year at the Geneva sectional when she also qualified for state.
"She (Stefancic) just knew how to control the wind more than I did," Schrepferman said. "I think I overhit more than I should have."
The Harlow sisters from Oswego East earned the other two state berths in singles.
Rosary coach John Tsang has been waiting to see his top doubles team Megan Conlin and Andrea Goyao play their best tennis, and the duo did just that Friday and Saturday.
Conlin and Goyao, who lost a 3-set match to Batavia in last year's sectional championship, won 6-0, 6-1, then 6-1, 6-0 and 6-1, 6-3 to reach the doubles finals against Oswego East's Alexis Blackmon and Leena Hwang, who Rosary beat 6-4, 7-5.
"It's a great weekend," Tsang said. "We finally found our best tennis. They are capable of playing at a very high level. Coming back here with that (sectional) experience really helps them. I knew if they played their game they have a great chance to take this title and that's what they did."
Tsang pointed to his team's aggressive play as the key Saturday and also for how well they will do at state, where they reached the fourth round of consolation play last year.
"If they are committed to closing and winning points at the net and do all the things we have been working on the last few years, they are going to go really deep in the tournament," Tsang said. "That's our style of play. playing aggressive, creating the action, dictating the points, and that's exactly what they did in this tournament."
Kaneland's doubles team of Angelica Emmanouil and Madison Jurcenko also is headed to state. The Knights, who earned the No. 1 seed, lost 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5 in a hard-fought semifinal to Oswego East.
Oswego East won the team sectional title with 21 points ahead of runner-up Kaneland and Waubonsie Valley who tied for second with 16.
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