Exciting showdowns abound at this season’s state tournament

SHARE Exciting showdowns abound at this season’s state tournament

The top girls tennis talent in Illinois descends on various sites in the northwest suburbs this weekend for the state tournament and there are several intriguing storylines to follow. Can Naperville Central’s Tiffany Chen, the top-seeded singles player, repeat as state champion? Will one of the star freshmen, such as Meg Kowalski of Lyons or Asuka Kawai from Palatine, make a deep run in the singles bracket? How will some of the city’s stars, such as Nicole Roc from Northside or Latin’s Alessandra Bianco, perform?

The biggest drama may be in the doubles bracket, however, where it is shaping up to be a clash between not only two doubles pairs, but two schools. Stevenson and Hinsdale Central are two of the state’s top programs, and this year, both have two outstanding doubles teams. The Patriots and Red Devils have the top four overall doubles pairs in the bracket, which could make for some intriguing showdowns as the weekend comes to a close.

“I think any time you have two of the top four seeds, it says a lot about a players’ record and their season,” Hinsdale Central coach Robin Kramer said.

The two schools own the top of the doubles bracket. Stevenson’s Zoe Taylor and Kaylin Dong are the top-seeded doubles team. Their teammates Vinaya Rao and Katherine Harvey, are seeded second. Behind them, ranked 3-4, are two Hinsdale Central pairs: Rugile Valiunaite and Sandra Keta, along with with Erika Oku and Stephanie Dolehide.

Given that the teams didn’t meet during the regular season, there could be some fireworks if the doubles semifinals consist of those four teams.

“There is a certain amount of pressure that comes with being the one and two seeds in the state tournament,” Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope said. “But it’s also a good opportunity to see how our girls will react to the pressure.

“We know that Hinsdale Central is a good team, and we know that it could happen that we’d be matched up with them. But we are not worrying about it until it happens.”

Both teams have single players that could also help them earn points to fight for a state team title. The Patriots will rely on senior Kendall Kirsch, who is seeded in the top eight and was a state champion as a doubles player a year ago. The Red Devils will lean on star sophomore Bella Lorenzini, who finished second in the state in singles last year after an epic championship match battle with Chen.

Whoever survives and wins the state title will have earned it.

“The talent level is so deep in in Illinois, it says a lot about where this state is,” Kramer said. “Once we are set for the round of 16, in both singles and doubles, every single match will be an all-out battle.”

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