LAKE VILLA — For the first time in several years, the Lake Forest girls tennis program is not talking about winning a state title.
Instead, when asked about her goals for the season, coach Denise Murphy talks about day-to-day accomplishments.
“We don’t quite have the depth or star power [as] in the past,” Murphy said. “But we aren’t lacking in passion or drive to learn and get better. I’m proud of the girls and how they’ve grown up.”
The Scouts are still a deep team. A second-place finish at the 14-team North Suburban Conference tournament at Lakes last weekend was proof. But the program has no expectations of a fourth state title in five years (the Scouts won at least a share in 2010, 2012 and 2013).
“We never think about whether we are going to be state champions,” junior Zoe Park said. “It’s the journey. One step at a time.”
Lake Forest took an important step at the conference tournament. The Scouts made the finals in each of the three doubles draws before losing to Stevenson. At No. 1 doubles, Park and junior Brynn Carlson did not drop a set in breezingthrough the first two rounds.
Stevenson’s team of Zoe Taylor and Kaylin Dong awaited them in the finals. Strong base line players who control points by outpacing opponents, Park and Carlson implemented counterintelligence.
“We were trying to lob a ton because their ground strokes are so great,” Carlson said. “We wanted to force them to hit shots they aren’t used to hitting.”
The strategy worked at times, just not consistently enough to win. Taylor and Dong took the match in straight sets 6-2, 6-1. Having paired Carlson with seniors Colleen Morris and Natassia Najman earlier in the year, Murphy said she feels comfortable with how her No. 1 team is coming together.
“At this time of year, we are looking to see an upswing in performance. Zoe and Brynn are clicking better now when they are on the court,” Murphy said. “It’s upbeat. It’s, ‘Wow, we can’t stop this.’ There’s so much momentum.”
Both will be in the lineup for the sectional tournament that begins Thursday and will be hosted by Highland Park. Lake Forest’s No. 2 team of Najman and senior Margaux Miller will also play at sectionals after a strong showing at conference. The duo played well in winning three matches before losing 6-4, 6-3 in the finals to Stevenson’s Katherine Harvey and Vinaya Rao.
In singles, No. 1 player Morris lost in the first round of the front draw but regrouped nicely in winning all four matches in the back draw for a fifth-place showing. At No. 2, freshman Julianna Roman took third place.
Lake Forest’s 2014 roster is missing several familiar names. There is no Catherine Orfanos (playing at Montana), no Victoria Falk (Army), no Elizabeth Zordani (Yale) or Christina Zordani, a junior who elected not to play high school tennis this season.
But the Scouts will arrive at sectionals as the defending state co-champions.
“It’s different. It’s a shift in gears,” Murphy said. “It’s still rewarding as I’m seeing growth. There are still some ‘aha!’ moments.”