Stevenson spurts to North Suburban triumph
It's been a season of growth for the Stevenson girls tennis team, and the process continued Saturday.
The Patriots were the team runner-up in the state tournament one year ago, but that group had plenty of top talent graduate and move on.
This year's much younger version, though, has been steadily on the rise.
Stevenson, which was the Lake Division champion during the regular season, earned the overall conference championship on Saturday with 40 points at the Vernon Hill Athletic Center on Saturday morning. Lake Forest finished second at 25 points followed by Libertyville (17); Prairie Division champ Vernon Hills finished tied for fourth with Warren at 16 in the 14-team field.
"We lost seven seniors from last year and replaced them with a lot of young players from the JV team and freshmen," Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope said. "It's always one of our three goals to win conference, then qualify our whole team through sectionals, and then the big show (state). We knew that we had our work cut out for us with a lot of unknowns at the beginning of the season. It became very apparent for us early on that we have a lot of young players that can play. If we could put them into spots, they'd be tested early -- throw them into the fire and gain experience right away."
Top-seeded Zoe Taylor won the No. 1 singles title for the Patriots with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Grant's Gaby Schoenberg. Taylor last year competed in doubles and was fifth in state as a freshman.
"I'm proud of how I played, and the team, because it's been a team effort," Taylor said. "Singles is definitely different, because you're on the court without a partner and there's nobody there to talk to you. I do miss a partner, but I like being on my own too. It's just you and you have to stay positive on your own."
Schoenberg had faced Taylor once prior, and during that matchup held a 4-3 lead before Taylor defaulted after she rolled an ankle. There was also some deeper familiarity, as both have practiced together during club play.
"I really worked to get there," Schoenberg said. "She's my friend, and whoever wins, we're happy for it. She usually beats me in practice. I wanted to beat her today, but it wasn't my day. I do learn a lot from her, with her physical and mental capabilities. She's my friend and I look up to her."
Third place at No. 1 singles went to Sarah Hackman of Wauconda, who defeated Antioch's Kelsey Neville 6-1, 6-1.
At No. 2 singles, top-seeded Dhwani Kumar of Stevenson won against Mundelein's Kalli Majewski 6-0, 6-0.
"I would've liked to get first place," Majewski said. "She was really, really good and it was a pleasure to play against her."
The Scouts' Emily Asmussen picked up third place by defeating Jessica Tartakovsky 6-2, 6-4.
Stevenson also showed its talent in doubles, winning at all three levels. At first 1 doubles, Kate Harvey and Vinaya Rao rolled past Lake Forest's Brynn Carlson and Julieanna Roman 6-2, 6-4. The Warren duo of Kristina Danos and Lilyanne Honnold defeated Libertyville's Gaby Struik and Tanvi Patel 6-3, 6-1 for third place.
At second doubles, Stevenson's Sasha Zoubareya and Elizabeth Ferdman beat Sofie Koppmann and Alia Alsikafi of Lake Forest 7-5, 6-2, and Libertyville's Mady Novak and Arthi Sekharan got by Warren's Nicole Kravstov and Emma Falish 6-4, 6-4 for third.
And third doubles, the Patriots duo of Paige Nierman and Gwenna Heidkamp got past the Scouts' Claudia Mazur and Laurel Tesar 6-2, 6-1. Third place went to the Wildcats' Sarah Broughton and Anna Mackey, who defeated Zoe Serelis and Britta Johnson of Warren 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Next weekend, Stevenson hosts a sectional featuring strong teams out of the Mid-Suburban such as Barrington, Palatine, Fremd, Buffalo Grove, along with NSC Lake rival Lake Zurich.
"It will be a tough sectional," Stanhope said. "A lot of teams are loading up on their doubles, because the singles draw is so difficult. We're going to have to play our best tennis -- and with a young team. We're starting two freshman, two sophomores and a junior and senior. So we do have our work cut out for us."
The other NSC teams will be in different sectionals hosted by Antioch, Cary-Grove and Highland Park.