Girls tennis: Nowicki, St. Viator use teamwork as spark for success

  • St. Viator's Maia Nowicki leads a talented group of Lions into the Class 1A state girls tennis tournament on Thursday.

    St. Viator's Maia Nowicki leads a talented group of Lions into the Class 1A state girls tennis tournament on Thursday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Prospect's doubles team of Natalie Katsaros, right, and Katherine Doyle are returning state qualifiers.

    Prospect's doubles team of Natalie Katsaros, right, and Katherine Doyle are returning state qualifiers. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Rolling Meadows' Hanna Haber has 71 career wins heading into the Class 2A state girls tennis tournament on Thursday.

    Rolling Meadows' Hanna Haber has 71 career wins heading into the Class 2A state girls tennis tournament on Thursday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/20/2021 4:22 PM

St. Viator made history last weekend by winning its first girls tennis sectional championship.

Now, junior singles player Maia Nowicki and the doubles combination of Allison Jodoin (senior) and Meredith Garcia (sophomore) will look to continue the magic in Thursday's Class 1A state finals tournament being held at various locations throughout the Northwest suburbs.

 

Jodoin and Garcia bring a 27-10 doubles mark into the state finals for the Lions and earned a coveted 9-16 seed in the tournament.

Nowicki, who also qualified for state as a freshman, brings a 22-9 mark into Thursday's first round after winning the sectional singles championship.

"This season, I really focused on the teamwork aspect," Nowicki said. "Since our season was cut off last year, I wanted to make the most of this year. Our team is one of the best Viator has ever had and we all got really close this year. All the different personalities mixed well. We all work very well together. As a person, I learned a lot from the team, and I grew up a lot, too. We have a big team this year. We have been especially good with lifting each other up and depending on each other. We have gotten very close these past few months, which drives us to do be better."

Nowicki added her aggressiveness on the court has taken a step forward. "I am a really aggressive player and go for a lot of shots from the baseline," she said. "I look for the opportunity to hit an aggressive shot and hit it early and hit a winner. If I get that opportunity, I take it."

In terms of the state finals, Nowicki isn't planning on changing her approach. "I have to keep putting in the work and have to keep working on my mentality, for sure, this week," she said. "I am going to keep giving it 100 percent on the court in practice leading up to state."

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A look at state:

On the Class 2A side, Elk Grove's Peyton Oda is 27-7 overall and the senior will look to add to her 94-26 career mark Thursday.

"This year, I improved my mindset the most," she said. "I am more patient and able to think more efficiently. I feel this way because when I play, I am more relaxed and analytical. In being more patient and analytical, I built a new layer of positivity that helps my drive of always trying to improve."

To say the least, Oda is thrilled to be wrapping her high school career on the big stage.

"Making it to state means a lot to me because I get to add to my school's successes and I worked hard to get to where I am," she said. "To have another opportunity to compete with highly skilled players is really nice. To be successful, I need to stay confident and trust my ability to perform. As I said before, my mentality has improved so much to where I am more determined and confident."

Fremd's talented doubles duo of seniors Gracie Ha and Sonal Matta earned a 9-16 seed in the Class 2A doubles tournament. Ha went all the way to the consolation quarterfinals in 2019 with sister Kellie Ha, winning four matches in the process. Matta that year played three matches in the state singles tournament. Ha and Matta won the doubles sectional title in 2020, but no state tournament was held due to the pandemic.

Barrington also won a sectional title last weekend and has the maximum six players in the state queue this weekend. Sectional singles champion Emily Yoon brings a 17-12 record into the state tournament, while freshman Caitlin Kavanaugh, a sectional runner-up, is 23-10 this season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Fillies' doubles team of Amani Alvi and Priya Shah is 16-7 after winning the sectional title, while Abby Carl and Olivia Paik are 23-3 together (finished second in the sectional).

Conant has five players in the state tournament, including freshman singles player Kaitlyn Strlich, the Mid-Suburban League No. 1 singles champion (first one on school history). She's 24-5 this season.

The Cougars' doubles team of seniors Nirali Patel and Riya Jain are three-time state qualifiers and were third in the MSL at No. 1 doubles. They are 18-7 this season, while junior Sruthi Sundar and senior Jessica Hernandez Goncalves have 12 wins together.

Rolling Meadows senior Hanna Haber would be flirting with 100 career wins had a wrist injury not scuttled her sophomore season. Haber is 25-8 after finishing second in sectional competition last weekend and sports a robust 71-25 career overall record.

Prospect's doubles team of seniors Katherine Doyle and Natalie Katsaros is 22-11 this season and is in the state finals for a second year. Doyle and Katsaros have been partners on varsity all four years and have 89 wins together, plus four MSL conference medals to their credit. They were second this season in the MSL behind Barrington's Alvi and Shah.

Schaumburg senior Emma Tatar also is in the state singles tournament, as is Maine West sophomore Lilliam Dockal, who is 18-5 this season and 35-10 in her career. Dockal won a sectional title as a freshman last year and took second last weekend.

The Maine South senior doubles team of Eva Zaskowski and Mina Radosavljevic are 7-7 as a doubles team, but coach Jerry Smith pointed out all seven losses are to teams also in the state finals tournament. Radosavljevic has 16 wins at No. 1 singles or No. 1 doubles, while Zaskowski has a 23-12 mark at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and No. 1 and No. 2 doubles.

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