Girls tennis: Freshman Boianov seeking Lake Zurich history at state

  • Lake Zurich freshman Katrine Boianov is a 9-16 seed at the state girls tennis tournament, which begins Thursday. She plays her first-round match at the Vernon Hills Athletic Center.

      Lake Zurich freshman Katrine Boianov is a 9-16 seed at the state girls tennis tournament, which begins Thursday. She plays her first-round match at the Vernon Hills Athletic Center. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Sarah Wang is the top-seeded singles player at the state final tournament that begins on Thursday.

      Stevenson's Sarah Wang is the top-seeded singles player at the state final tournament that begins on Thursday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted10/21/2021 1:00 AM

A man washes ashore on an island and learns the island's owner no longer enjoys hunting animals.

Too boring.


He prefers to prey on humans for sport.

"It's a dark story," Lake Zurich freshman ace tennis player Katrine Boianov said of her English class reading assignment earlier this month.

It's the short story "The Most Dangerous Game," written by Richard Connell in 1924.

Boianov's tennis game happens to be dangerous, too. And she's all set -- as a 9-16 seed in singles, with a 24-7 record -- to hunt for something rare at this weekend's Class 2A girls tennis state meet at Buffalo Grove.

A Lake Zurich Bear, after all, has never captured a state medal in girls tennis.

"What do I like about Katrine's game?" a grinning LZ coach Andy McCurley said. "Everything. It's a pretty complete game. She plays all year, works on her game all year. I love her backhand, especially when she uses it to drive hard shots down the line.

"I'm proud of the season she's having. I'm proud of how focused she's been since the start."

Boianov begins her quest for program history Thursday morning (8 a.m.) with a first-round match at the Vernon Hills Athletic Complex (VHAC) against Crystal Lake Central freshman Parker Zautcke. Boianov won four convincing straight-set matches en route to the Fremd sectional singles championship last weekend, capping her debut in a postseason meet with a 6-2, 6-1 defeat of Rolling Meadows senior Hanna Haber, who had downed top-seeded Valentina Bellagamba of Deerfield in a 6-3, 6-4 semifinal.

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Boianov finished runner-up in singles at the Rolling Meadows invite on Oct. 2, two weeks after taking third at No. 1 singles at the Prospect Power 8 invite.

The latter meet featured the state meet's top seed, Stevenson sophomore Sarah Wang (29-1), and 9-16 seed Katelyn Wu of Glenbrook North.

The 5-foot-7 Boianov placed fourth at No. 1 in the rugged North Suburban Conference tournament on Oct. 9.

"I try to be aggressive before my opponent attempts to be aggressive," said Boianov, who struck a tennis ball for the first time at age 4, with her father, Martin -- a former professional basketball player in Europe -- serving as her coach. "But I think about other parts of my game plan before then. I like to take everything into consideration when we're warming up -- the weather, the surroundings, my opponent's game and my opponent's weaknesses."

Looking at state:

Two other NSC netters received 9-16 seeds at state: junior Margaret "Maggie" Forkner (19-6) and freshman Lena Dogadalski (22-4). Both take classes at Libertyville. Both ace tests on tennis courts.


Forkner, a 2019 state quarterfinalist, has two wins over Boianov, with one coming in a dual meet (6-2, 6-1) and the other in the match for third place (6-3, 6-4) at the NSC tournament.

None of her 6 setbacks this fall is a bad one.

Forkner faces New Trier's No. 2 singles player, junior Julia Ross, in another first-rounder at VHAC Thursday morning. Forkner edged sophomore and 5-8 state seed Madison Liu -- NT's No. 1 -- 6-2, 4-6, 10-7 (super tiebreaker) on Sept. 25.

Get the feeling that Forkner missed getting a 5-8 seed by a sliver, maybe less?

Libertyville, like sectional champ Stevenson, advanced three entrants to state. Wildcats senior Alexandra Berns/sophomore Hadley Warren (18-11) made it in doubles, as did Patriots juniors Ainika Hou/Sonia Mehta (a 5-8 seed, with a 24-5 record) and Patriots junior Katie Herlihy/senior Thea Surya (17-5).

Wang's match vs. Lake Forest junior Autumn Rabjohns in the Stevenson sectional singles final essentially doubled as a battle for the No. 1 seed at state. Wang topped the Scout 7-5, 6-2 on Oct. 16, after the pair had split their first two meetings.

Rabjohns, the younger sister of two-time reigning state singles champ and Northwestern freshman Kiley Rabjohns, got the No. 2 seed in 2A.

Hinsdale Central qualified the maximum four state entries and is the heavy favorite to net its sixth state title in nine years, because the Red Devils secured four top-eight seeds, including second-seeded Sophia Kim/Katie Dollens in doubles.

Nobody would be surprised if Stevenson, despite having only three entrants, ended up having to find room in its bus for a top-three state trophy on Saturday.

"I expect nothing but maximum effort from every qualifier on our team," Patriots first-year coach Jose Morales said. "They've shown their incredible talents this season, and I know they will continue to do so.

"I am extremely excited to see them in action on the big stage."

Class 1A

At least three Lake County performers in this weekend's Class 1A girls tennis state meet, also hosted by Buffalo Grove, should prepare to take a curtain call. Wauconda seniors and reigning Antioch sectional doubles champs Sophia Esquivel/Megan Hackman were awarded a 3-4 seed, and Grayslake Central senior Karishma Bhalla -- who reached the round of 16 at state in 2018 and in '19 -- landed a 5-8 singles seed.

Twelfth at state in doubles as sophomores, Esquivel/Hackman have racked up a combined record of 64-3 (. 955) since the start of the 2019 season.

Grayslake Central seniors and Antioch sectional doubles runners-up Grace Caldwell/Aviva Krill take on 5-8 seed Paola Almeda/Layla Shah of Chicago (University) in the first round at Buffalo Grove.

The 1A and 2A state meets start concurrently Thursday morning and run through Saturday afternoon at Buffalo Grove and 11 other sites in Lake and Cook counties. Visit for first-round pairings and site assignments.

Dinks & slices:

Antioch coach Jamie D'Andrea traveled to Bloomington on Tuesday to serve on the state tournament seeding committee. Her lone state qualifier, senior and team MVP Natalie Labicki (24-8), drew second-seeded Emma Davis of Providence Catholic in a 1A first-rounder at Hoffman Estates. ... Grant junior Eliska Rasborschek/senior Gianna Vavalle (8-5) reached the 2A state meet with a fourth-place showing at the Jacobs sectional. "Both rank as two of the best girls tennis players to ever walk the halls of Grant," Bulldogs coach Shea Wintersteen said. ... Carmel Catholic senior and third-year varsity member Alex Monroe (11-12) emerged as the lone Corsair to qualify for state last weekend, taking runner-up honors at the 1A St. Francis sectional. "Smart player; Alex adapts quickly to opponents and uses a variety of shots," Carmel coach Gina Borkowski said.

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