Geneva nets 1st sectional since 2006
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A week ago, Geneva's girls tennis team swept the singles competition but still placed third to St. Charles East and Batavia in the highly competitive Upstate Eight Conference River Division tournament.
On Saturday, the Vikings were the ones celebrating after they captured their first sectional title since 2006 at St. Charles East.
Led by singles state qualifiers Kirby Einck and Grace Krueger and the fourth-place doubles team of Margo Hess and Emma Hazel, the Vikings amassed 23 points to edge Batavia (21) and the rest of the 10-team sectional field.
"It has been an interesting conference as far as who is it going to be -- Batavia, (St. Charles) East or us," said Geneva coach Maureen Weiler. "All the girls came through at the right time for us."
Hess and Hazel began the day with the resumption of their quarterfinal match against St. Charles East's Haydyn Jones and Kelsie Roberton.
Their 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory clinched a state berth for the Vikings' tandem after suffering a pair of 3-set losses to the Saints earlier this season.
"That's been back and forth with them all season and being delayed by darkness for the second time," said Weiler.
Einck, who entered the tourney with a 22-2 record, earned her third straight state berth despite dropping a grueling 4-6, 6-4, 2-6 title defeat to Sycamore's Angelina Ye.
"She's probably my toughest competitor," Einck said of Ye. "She's so mentally tough and fast. She really raised her game and I just didn't have it today."
The junior, who lost just 1 game in 3 matches on her way to the finals, was most pleased with the performance of her teammates.
"The team always comes first in my mind," said Einck, "This is a great feeling for our team morale."
Krueger, who lost to Ye in the semifinals, defeated Batavia's Nora McClure in straight sets (6-3, 6-3) in the third-place match.
"For a freshman, she really came through for us," Weiler said of Krueger.
The second-place Bulldogs will take McClure and both of their doubles teams to next week's state tourney.
Senior Brooke LeFevre and junior Sydnee Unterberg provided one of the tournament's surprises with Friday's 7-5, 6-3 quarterfinal upset of second-seeded Lexi Walton and Betsy Jones of Wheaton Academy.
"I was not expecting it at all," said LeFevre. "We just went in there and wanted to do our best and we did it."
The Bulldogs' No. 2 duo won its third-place match, 6-2, 6-1, over Geneva's Hess and Hazel.
"It feels amazing," said Unterberg. "I never doubted us."
"Our two doubles team hit their low point when they lost a 3-setter to Geneva a few weeks ago," said Batavia coach Brad Nelson. "But since that point they have really battled back and played great tennis."
Batavia's top doubles team of Jenny Mizikar and Amelia Cogan (27-2) didn't drop a game on the way to the finals before losing to Bartlett's Jen Gates and Gabby Gregorio.
"Bartlett served well and we couldn't win the big points to close out that first set," said Nelson. "I think they'll bounce back (at state)."
Nelson also praised McClure for her perseverance.
"Nora made the jump from third singles to first singles this year," said the coach. "She has won 24 matches at the top. She makes every opponent earn every point."
The highlight for sixth-place Bartlett was provided by its first-place doubles pairing of Gates and Gregorio, which handed top-seeded Mizikar and Cogan a 7-5, 6-0 loss in the finals after surviving a tough 6-3, 7-6 quarterfinal match against the Saints' Alexa and Carly Huskisson Friday.
"We were seeded third at the seeding meeting so it lit a fire under us," said Gates, who placed second in singles at last year's sectional. "We played that entire match like we were losing the whole time."
Gregorio earned her second sectional doubles crown and fourth state berth but first with Gates (23-1).
"We thought we should have been the No. 1 seed and we wanted to prove everyone wrong," said Gregorio. "We stepped up and beat a team that has only been beaten once all season."
For the second time in coach Sena Drawer's 27 years, UEC River champion St. Charles East was unable to qualify anyone to state.
"Today was a hard day for the girls," said Drawer. "This is a team that I really wanted it for because they've been so dedicated. It's very disappointing because they're mostly all seniors."
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