Stevenson duo takes 2nd at state
There were the expected tears accompanied by hugs shortly after the final point was scored.
Only Stevenson doubles teammates Vinaya Rao and Kate Harvey weren't sad because it was over. Instead, they were happy that it happened.
"It" being a wonderful two-year run in which the duo lost a total of only four matches. The last one was the in the final match of the Buffalo Grove-hosted state tournament Saturday.
Seeded second, Rao and Harvey were in quest of a repeat state title. The championship match actually had to be suspended because of darkness and was concluded indoors at the nearby Midtown Athletic Club.
"We're actually pretty happy because we didn't expect to get this far, especially after losing a couple of matches early in the season," said Rao, the only senior on the Patriots who is undecided about her college aspirations next fall.
"We were the second seed, which I think helped us. Everyone we played knew we won state last year, but we didn't feel that extra pressure."
As a team, Stevenson had a terrific showing, finishing second with 30 points behind state champ Hinsdale Central with 50. New Trier (27) was third, followed by Lyons (25) in fourth.
In the title match, Rao and Harvey played tooth and nail against Hinsdale Central's Sandra Keta and Stephanie Dolehide, before falling to the 5-8 seed 6-7 (7-3), 6-1, 5-7.
"This is amazing to finish second," the sophomore Harvey said. "We were really motivated by the support from our fans, and we just wanted to do as well as we could for the team."
Rao and Harvey earned a return trip to the finals after a grueling three-set victory -- 7-5, 6-7 (7-4), 6-3 -- over another Hinsdale Central duo of Danielle Burich and Erika Oku. The match featured the two teams going to deuce on numerous occasions, but it ultimately came down to strong serving by Harvey and pulverizing shots at the net by Rao.
"We knew it was going to be a tough match," said Rao, who finished her high school career with four trips to the state tournament. She played singles her first two years before joining forces with Harvey last season.
"We got down, but we like that. But we took the loss in the second set really well and came back in the third with a lot of energy."
Four of Stevenson's six players graduated last year, and coach Tom Stanhope wasn't sure of what to expect this year.
"It took a lot of work, especially on our mental game," Stanhope said. "But the girls really responded. It's all about the team, and they really bonded and came together. But the Hinsdale girls played great. They really took us out of what we wanted to do (in the doubles title match)."
The runner-up finish by Rao and Harvey wasn't about to dampen Stevenson's spirit.
"We are so proud of the support we have from Patriot Nation," Stanhope said.
Grant junior Gaby Schoenberg turned in another solid performance at state. A returning state qualifier, Schoenberg won three matches Friday, before losing to Kolie Allen of Glenbard East in Saturday's consolation bracket quarterfinals.
Hinsdale Central's Isabella Lorenzini, after finishing runner-up in singles the previous two years, topped Naperville Central's Tiffany Chen 6-4, 6-3 for the state title.