Girls tennis: Minor, Stevenson tandem win state titles
The Minor hand-me-downs include good genes.
And a headband.
"I found it at home. She just left it," Carmel Catholic senior Brienne Minor said of a headband worn by her older sister Jasmine, who won the state singles championship for Carmel in 2010. "I just figured if she won with it, then I could win state too."
The Minors have a tradition of great tennis players in their family, and that was evident again Saturday, as Minor captured the state title over Isabella Lorenzini of Hinsdale Central. Minor prevailed in a grueling, two-and-a-half-hour match -- 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 -- at Buffalo Grove.
Last year's single champion, Naperville Central's Tiffany Chen, settled for third place, while Stevenson took home the second-place trophy for the first time since 1996. Stevenson's Kate Harvey and Vinaya Rao captured the doubles title, while teammates Zoe Taylor and Kaylin Dong finished fifth. Warren's Karyna Bihel placed fifth.
The Michigan-bound Minor went through the entire season unbeaten and didn't play a third set in a match until the state championship. Her sister Jasmine went on to play at Georgia Tech, while oldest sister Kristina competed for Illinois from 2006-10. Baby sister found satisfaction in knowing her state championship Saturday didn't come easy.
"I'm glad it went into three sets," said Minor, who sat out her junior year of high school tennis. "This was a tough one because I haven't had a three-set match. I wasn't used to it. I was very nervous, scared, happy and excited. There were a lot of emotions going through me. I just really wanted to win it. I just told myself to focus."
Minor lost the first set after being up 4-2. But in the second set, Minor broke serve to take a 3-2 lead and never looked back. In the decisive third, Lorenzini broke serve to knot the set at 3-3, but Minor then did the same to her opponent. Minor went on to take the next two games.
"My forehand crosscourt (shot) was my best weapon," Minor said. "I still think I need a little work on my backhand. I knew (Lorenzini) was feisty and I had to come out with a lot of energy -- and be even more feisty in order to win this match."
Chen's bid to reach the final for a second straight year was spoiled by Lorenzini, who won their semifinal 6-3, 6-3.
"The semi was tough. Bella played amazing," Chen said. "She was hitting all her shots and I was trying to hold on. She was just having an 'on' day. It's hard to play her like that. For her to get ahead helped her, but it didn't faze me. I still tried hard to come back."
Chen defeated Lyons freshman Meg Kowalski 7-5, 6-2 in the third-place match.
"Third isn't that bad," Chen said. "Meg played a real good match. She's just a freshman and has a lot of potential. It was a tough match because we play similar. I see a lot of myself in her. I had to really dig deep to beat her."
As the defending state champ, Chen experienced the difficulties of repeating.
"It's definitely tougher to come back as a defending champion," Chen said. "Everyone expected me to do great things. I just tried not to let the pressure get to me. I just took every day as it came."
Stevenson's 40 points were nine back of tournament champion Hinsdale Central (49), while Lyons (33) finished third.
"We had three goals all year -- to win conference, qualify the whole team for sectionals, and the third was to win state," Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope said. "It didn't happen. State didn't go according to plan, but second place is still good. Hinsdale Central rose to the occasion and they deserved it going away."
Harvey/Rao captured their state championship by defeating Erika Oku and Stephanie Dolehide of Hinsdale Central 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.
"It took practice and experience to beat them," Harvey said. "It helped with the team cheering for us. I thought we would have a good match here and expected all of that."
The top-seeded duo of Taylor/Dong fought back in the consolation to take the fifth place with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Sloane Williams and Kendall Scruggs of Whitney Young.
Bihel provided Warren its best finish at state for a female. She defeated Barrington's Michelle Linden 7-5, 7-5 for fifth.