Girls tennis: Fremd nails down sectional championship
After a third-place finish in the Mid-Subruban League tournament, Fremd's girls tennis team regrouped and punched six tickets to the IHSA state tournament while winning the Class 2A Schaumburg sectional championship Saturday morning.
The Vikings, who finished seventh at state last year, bested the field with 32 points to win their first sectional since 2017.
"We're just ecstatic," said Fremd coach Scott Newmark. "Just qualifying everyone and getting both singles out was fantastic, while our doubles played extremely well. After kind of a disappointing conference tournament coming back this week with focus and forgetting about last week, they played their very best tennis at the best time. We've just got to get all six ready for next week."
Fresh off their MSL title, the Vikings' sister duo of senior Kelli and sophomore Grace Ha celebrated a sectional title.
On their road to glory, the Ha sisters tallied a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Hoffman Estates' Niko Otsuka/Melanie Vlahov, a 6-1, 6-0 win over South Elgin's Caroline Trujillo/Naima Davis, a 6-0, 6-0 conquest over Conant sophomores Riya Jain/Nirali Patel and a 6-1, 6-1 sectional championship over junior Viking teammates Valentina Betancourt/April Wu.
For Kelli Ha, this is her third and final trip to the state tournament, while sister Gracie notches her first appearance at the big dance. Kelli Ha made her first appearance with their eldest sister of the Ha family, Elsie, in last year's edition of the tournament. The Fremd senior earned a top 24 state finish with No. 1 singles player Sonal Matta's elder sister, Diya.
The Ha sisters' title on Saturday was the first for the two.
"From day one, everyone had their individual goals and I think after finding out our sectional and seeing how everyone was playing this season, our goal as a team was that we could do a lot more," Kelli Ha said. "Our team played so well. Jane (Bodensteiner) was so amazing, and Sonal (Matta) played a great match. I'm just so proud of our team."
"Coming into the sectional, I had confidence in our team that we could all qualify," Gracie Ha said. "I knew we had to forget about conference; it was a brand new match and a brand new weekend. We had new matches (at sectionals) and we knew we had to compete in one match at a time."
Of the six Vikings advancing, four had siblings compete in the state tournament. No. 2 singles player Jane Bodensteiner is the sister of Kate, who earned three tickets to the tourney with then partner Julia Smiarowska; Mattas (this is Sonal's first bout in the tourney, while hr sister Diya competed in three tourneys, twice in singles and once in doubles); and Elsie Ha played in one state final.
"A lot of siblings are paired up this year," Kelli Ha said. "The dynamic of sending siblings after siblings carries a legacy. It was cool to see Kate (Bodensteiner) come (to the sectional tournament) and cheer us on. It was great to see her support us. It's something to be proud of family-wise, but it's not easy with those big shoes to fill."
In the singles sectional championship, Lake Park junior Analisa Cruz netted her first title Saturday.
On the road to her third consecutive state bid, Cruz registered wins against Conant senior Zoya Siddiqui (6-1, 6-0), Hoffman junior Ember Knapp (6-0, 6-0), Bodensteiner (6-0, 6-0) and a stunning three-set match over Matta (2-6, 6-4, 6-1).
"I was just going in (to the finals) match thinking I was going to try my best," Cruz said. "I kind of felt pressured because it was the one seed. I was really nervous my first set. It was really difficult to get to my points because I wasn't used to (Matta's) style of play. As I got used to it, I was able to be more competitive.
"The past two years I came in third. I was really excited going into this sectional because I felt really confident I could possibly win it. Anything could've happened, but I'm happy I won. This was a really good season for me. Whatever happens at state, I know I did my best this season."
Other qualifiers included Fremd's Matta, Betancourt/Wu and Bodensteiner, Lake Park sophomore Sara Jankovic and both Conant doubles teams -- Patel/Jain and junior Simren Mahajan/senior Chetana Cheruvu. This is Majahen's second appearance in the state tourney.
The state tournament runs Thursday through Saturday at the 12 MSL schools with Buffalo Grove serving as the host.