Girls tennis: Stevenson, Fremd keep the focus on improving
Stevenson's girls tennis team stepped up to the challenge Saturday afternoon with a lineup full of state-qualifying caliber teams, each of which won one of the seven finals at the Fremd Invite.
And the Patriots were good under pressure, as four of those victories needed tiebreakers.
Stevenson topped the field with 56 team points. Host Fremd was next with 43 points followed by Glenbrook South (34) and Glenbrook North (31).
"The idea is to improve every match and find a way to win," said Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope. "We did tilt our schedule to make it so we we're playing top-heavy, top-20 teams on the road. This helps the girls put in their time having played in tight situations like (matches against) Lake Forest and Highland Park."
Although the Patriots have lost some heavy hitters and state qualifiers with the departures of Dhwani Kumar, Paige Nierman (both graduated) and sophomore Gina Kondos, there's plenty of top talent still around. Former state champ and runner-up senior Katherine Harvey and junior state qualifier Elizabeth Ferdman are back in action.
And another familiar face has returned to the top of the Stevenson lineup, as senior Zoe Taylor is back after taking a season off. A two-time state qualifier who finished as high as fifth place in doubles, Taylor has qualified for the state tournament in singles as well.
Harvey/Ferdman notched wins against Carmel, Crystal Lake South and ultimately over Fremd in the final. Both Harvey and Ferdman had competed on different doubles teams against the three-time state qualifying Fremd senior doubles team of Kate Bodensteiner/Julia Smiarowska in the past. On this meeting, the Stevenson pair notched a 6-3, 7-6 (7-0) victory.
"In our first matches, we started slow," Ferdman said. "We didn't have much experience playing with each other in the past, but we feed off each other's game. Under fortuitous circumstances, we met up to what we were supposed to do."
"We've figured out how to work together," Harvey said. "We know what works and what doesn't, and we click really well. We're working hard in practice every day, and it helps us know what to worry about and work on for conference, sectionals and state."
Taylor blanked her Glenbrook North and Prairie Ridge opponents 6-0, 6-0 in the first two rounds and won her final against St. Ignatius freshman Tyra Richardson 6-0, 6-4.
"Zoe (Taylor) is an awesome human," Stanhope said. "She's a good teammate, a smart individual and obviously she's a great player. She works hard in her matches and in practice. She's a role model for the underclassmen."
Other Patriots champs included the No. 2 doubles team of senior Sam Burger/junior Alyssa Glazer. They topped Fremd sisters Elsie and Kelli Ha 5-7, 6-3 (10-5).
At No. 2 singles, Stevenson soph Athena Kolli notching a win over St. Ignatius sophomore Ivvy Hicks in the final 7-5, 0-6 (10-6). Stevenson's also had doubles champs in Amhika Singh/Ellen Ma, Sneha Yellapantula/Carly Lefar and the No. 3 singles winner in Maggie Gong.
Fremd coach Lauren O'Donnell was proud of the effort from her team. Six out of seven positions medaled.
"I think the returning players know this is their toughest regular season tournament," O'Donnell said. "To see they're at the top with the competition at almost every spot is great. I'm excited for the season ahead.
"Three freshman -- Kira (Emmanouilidis), April (Wu) and Katie Sze -- surpassed my expectations with their level of play. Our Saturdays are extremely tough, but it prepares them for the conference."
Although Bodensteiner/Smiarowska faltered in their final, they took the loss in stride, chalking up the Fremd Invite as great preparation for the year to come.
"For us, we have nothing to lose going into this season," Bodensteiner said. "We try our best every match and we've improved every year."
"This prepares us for matches in the future," Smiarowska said. "This invite motivates us in practice. We also have to be leaders. We've seen a lot with this program since our freshman year. We want to do our best to play as far as we can."
Other top Fremd performances included a second-place finish at No. 3 doubles from Jane Bodensteiner/Elizabeth Lubeck, and third-place efforts from junior Diya Matta at No. 1 singles, Emmanouilidis at No. 2 singles and Wu at No. 3 singles.