Melissa Tuftedal had a unique pep talk for Lisa Derowski on the car ride Thursday from South Elgin to Palatine.
Derowski, a sophomore foreign exchange student from Germany, was playing in her first — and only — state tennis meet.
“I told her, ‘You do realize what a big deal this is — this is the end of the season,’ ” said Tuftedal, South Elgin’s coach. “She said, ‘This is so different.’”
Derowski doesn’t compete for her school in Germany — only clubs — but had quite the day. She bounced back from a first-round loss, remaining alive in the back draw after a day with three straight wins.
The third came in straight sets over Hampshire’s Hannah Hougland, and comes on the heels of leading South Elgin to its first sectional title.
“This is a huge accomplishment for her,” Tuftedal said, “and a huge achievement for South Elgin.”
Elsewhere, an emotionally spent Dahlia Keonavongsa took a deep breath and reflected.
“I felt like I played … OK,” the Elgin junior said. “It wasn’t my best, but it wasn’t my worst.”
Unfortunately in the grueling grind of the state tennis meet, OK only gets you so far. Just like a year ago, Keonavongsa bowed out after a 1-2 day.
Still alive in the back draw resuming Friday is Derowski and the St. Charles North duo of Brittany Rohrsen and Morgan Rerko.
Keonavongsa started her day beating DeKalb’s Mary Ellen Green.
A 6-0, 6-0 loss to Glenbard East’s Priscilla Palermo brought her back to earth, and a straight-set loss to Tinley Park’s Haley Wilcox followed.
“I wasn’t too happy with how I transitioned to each match,” Keonavongsa said. “What I’ll take from this is I have to be more consistent.”
First-time qualifiers Rerko and Rohrsen, both juniors, had a most surreal first day at state.
Tied 3-3 midway through the first set of their second-round match at Hoffman Estates, all players were sent to the school gymnasium as the school went into a “soft lockdown” due to a suspicious package.
A two-hour delay ensured. Rerko fell asleep. When play resumed around 1 p.m., the St. Charles tandem dropped a 6-4, 6-3 decision to Lake Forest’s Zoe Park and Brynn Carlson.
“It was tough. We were actually doing really well,” Rohrsen said. “It kind of stunk because it hurt our momentum.”
The girls regrouped, remaining alive in the back draw with a straight-set win over Sterling.
“It’s exciting — we’ve known each other forever,” said Rohrsen, playing partners with Rerko since they were freshmen.
Third-time state qualifier Ashley Kosy of Jacobs — like her cousin Keonavongsa —bowed out after one day.
Kosy started with a tough 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 loss to York’s Angela Avgerinos, came back to win her second but then dropped her third.
“We knew looking at the draw that would be a really tough first match,” Jacobs coach Jon Betts said. “There was not a weak player at Barrington. There’s no shame in losing those matches. A new season starts and she’ll look to get better.”
Jacobs first-time doubles qualifiers of Morgan Vachio and Sara Elliott are also out after a 1-2 day.
The girls won their first set, then ran into one of Hinsdale Central’s powerhouse entries and lost 6-0, 6-0. A 6-3, 6-4 defeat to York ended their day.
“They weren’t too happy about losing — but they competed,” Betts said. “Second match, we just ran into a team at another level.”
Elgin Academy’s doubles team of Kayla Schwan and Emma May, coming off winning the school’s first sectional title, kept it going early Thursday.
They knocked off a team from Carmi-White County in their first match at Wheeling.
Straight-set losses to Rockford Guilford and Homewood-Flossmoor followed — but hardly put a damper on their week.
“That second match, they played probably the best match they have all season,” Elgin Academy coach Greg Repede said. “Those teams are just very good.”