Sectional champ Antioch happily overachieves
It's always nice when your team exceeds expectations.
That seemed to be the theme on a chilly Saturday afternoon at the District 117 Tennis Complex in Lake Villa.
Sectional host Antioch saved its best for when it mattered most, as the Sequoits qualified both of their singles players and one doubles team for the Buffalo Grove-hosted state meet that runs Thursday through Saturday at District 211, 214 and 220 courts.
Antioch wound up claiming the sectional championship hardware with 26 points. Warren (22) was second, followed by Grayslake Central (18) and Grant (16).
"This is way beyond what I expected," Sequoits coach Jamie D'Andrea said. "It's awesome to have both singles and one doubles qualify (for state). Our program is definitely building. I'm so grateful that everyone rose to the occasion."
The team sectional championship hardware was in limbo until after the final doubles match concluded. Antioch senior Anna Arden and junior Emma DeJong outlasted the Warren duo of seniors Emma Falish and Nicole Kravstov 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 for third place.
Arden and DeJong trailed 4-1 in the deciding third set, but that's when momentum took over as they won the final five games.
"We always seem to get down, but then we get that one game in where we win," Arden said. "We just played smart and moved our feet more, and all of a sudden we were back in it. We just rode that momentum the rest of the match. We have a great time out there and have awesome chemistry."
The duo has been playing together for only about three weeks.
"This is so surreal because we dreamed of making it to state, and when the last ball landed in our favor (Friday) in the semifinals, we looked at each other and said, 'We're going to state' " DeJong said. "We figured since we made it, we had nothing to lose today. Sometimes we think too hard. We just need to go out and play our game and not worry about every shot."
Falish and Kravstov will play at state as well, as the top-four singles and top-four doubles finishers advance.
In singles action, Grant junior Gaby Schoenberg will make a return trip to state after defeating Antioch sophomore Kelsey Neville 6-2, 6-0 in the championship match. Antioch junior Sjana Henderson defeated Grant's Katerina Antonishina 6-2, 6-2 for the third-place medal.
Neville also returns state, where last year as a freshman she won her first match before dropping the next two.
"We're going for two wins, if not more, next weekend," D'Andrea said of Neville. "But this is great for our program. It's definitely growing and we have a good core coming back for next year with us losing only one senior (Arden)."Grayslake Central coach Grayslake Central coach Chuck Lawson was also ecstatic about the end results Saturday. Senior Nicole Tatsuguchi and sophomore Lia Boucek won the doubles titles.
"This is exciting for us to have a doubles team make it through (to state)," Lawson said. "They work well together and really responded today."
Tatsuguchi and Boucek tripped up Warren juniors Kristina Danos and Lily Honnold 6-1, 6-3 in the championship match.
"This means a lot because our school really doesn't make it to state all that much," Boucek said. "We've had a lot of close matches this season and it just made us a lot stronger mentally."
Her partner echoed similar sentiments.
"We just try playing smart and really concentrate on our groundstrokes," Tatsuguchi said. "This means a lot. We really wanted this."