WINNETKA — Taylor Tamblyn qualified for the girls tennis state tournament with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Niles West sophomore Eliza Kirov in the quarterfinals of the New Trier Sectional, but the New Trier senior pulled out of the tournament in the semifinals.
Tamblyn withdrew due to a back injury, which has lingered throughout the season. She said it’s a chronic issue with the IT band in her lower back, which also sends pain shooting down into her hamstring. Tamblyn has dealt with the issue for a while, she said, and it flares up when she hits her backhand and serves. It especially affects her when she plays multiple matches in a day.
“If I have a match, it won’t bother me,” Tamblyn said. “But when we had invites, I would not be able to sleep that night because I’d be in so much pain.”
At the sectional, Tamblyn was confident she would be ready for the start of the three-day state meet on Thursday.
“This week, I just have to be very on top of it [with] … rolling, stretching, icing, heating, going to the trainer, resting,” Tamblyn said. “Just everything.”
Sisters Abby Witkowski and Caroline Witkowski qualified for the state meet together for the second straight season.
The year-end tournament will be their last together at Loyola, and they said their goal is to reach its second day. The Witkowskis — Abby Witkowski is a senior, Caroline Witkowski is a sophomore — narrowly missed out on that goal a year ago when they went 1-2.
The sisters finished third at the sectional, and they agreed that they’re playing better this year than they were at this time a year ago.
“I think we’re starting to close out points faster, and we know each other’s game better,” Abby Witkowski said.
In the last match of her high school career, Regina senior Inez Dadej had the unenviable task of playing against one of the state’s best players.
Dadej fell 6-0, 6-0 to Northside freshman Nicole Roc in the New Trier Sectional’s quarterfinals. The result was one Dadej knew was inevitable during warmups.
“To be quite honest, I knew what I was getting myself into,” Dadej said. “I expected it. As soon as I saw her serve, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh. I’m going to have a tough time with this one.’ ”
Dadej said Roc’s dominance in the match made her lose her confidence, but it also provided her with ideas for things to try when she plays tennis after high school.
“She definitely had some strategies that I really liked,” Dadej said. “Like when I was all the way by the baseline, she would throw little volleys over the net, so I would have to try to run for it. In my head I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s nice. She knows what she’s doing.’ ”
North Shore Country Day
North Shore Country Day’s Claire McCarthy and Megan Trott have only been paired together for one season, but their strong on-court relationship was evident after they came up one win short of advancing to the state tournament.
New Trier junior Tess Lubin and sophomore Nikki Katz defeated McCarthy, a senior, and Trott, a junior, 6-0, 6-0 in the sectional quarterfinals. Although their season ended with that loss, McCarthy and Trott were smiling as they gathered their things next to the court before walking off.
There wasn’t any bitterness or sadness.
“We get along so well,” McCarthy said. “[Our relationship] is really, really positive. We’re always there for each other no matter what happens. We’re just laughing, having a good time. We have so many inside jokes on the court that we just use to lift each other up no matter what happens.”
Jessica Ampel qualified for the state tournament a year ago, but it became clear early in her junior year that it would be immensely difficult for her and teammate Abbey Moore to qualify in singles this year.
The New Trier Sectional was overflowing with very talented singles players, so Evanston coach Joyce Anderson paired Ampel and Moore together at doubles early in the season and planned on playing them there at the sectional.
The move paid off. Ampel and Moore qualified for the state tournament with a 6-1, 6-1 victory against North Shore Country Day’s Caroline Abrams and Cara Bondurant. They finished fourth in doubles.
Ampel and Moore didn’t play together all year — they moved back and forth from singles and doubles — but their doubles partnership strengthened as the season progressed.
“At first, I guess the chemistry didn’t hit and then we kind of figured out what worked,” Ampel said. “We both have figured out what one of us is supposed to do, and what our roles are, basically. We’ve figured that out. Like, Abbey’s going to put it away at the net and I’m going to set it up on the baseline.”
Moore added: “We trust each other to make our shots more. We don’t feel like we have to win every point. We know we can both hold our own.”
One week after losing 6-0, 6-1 to New Trier’s Taylor Tamblyn at the Central Suburban South meet, Niles West sophomore Eliza Kirov played Tamblyn in the sectional quarterfinals.
Kirov tried to alter her strategy a bit against Tamblyn on Saturday. Specifically, she said she tried to cut down on her unforced errors and attack a little bit more. It didn’t work, though. Tamblyn played very consistent tennis and beat Kirov 6-2, 6-1.
“When I got off the court, of course I was really sad that I’m not making it to state this year and that’s probably the main thing that gets me really down,” said Kirov, who advanced to state as a freshman. “I guess I just have to accept that she played a great match. She’s a great player overall and she deserves that spot.”
Kirov and Loyola freshman Maggie Hines — one of state’s best freshmen — didn’t make it to the state tournament. The New Trier Sectional’s four state berths in singles went to Tamblyn, New Trier junior Cammy Frei, Niles North freshman Michelle Bacalla and Northside freshman Nicole Roc.
“This year, there were six or seven really good [singles] players,” Tamblyn said. “Eliza was good, Maggie was good and they both didn’t qualify. If they were in any other sectional, they probably would have qualified.”