BUFFALO GROVE — It looked as though the stars finally aligned for Hinsdale Central’s Bella Lorenzini.
The hard-hitting sophomore got a measure of redemption in the semifinals of the IHSA girls tennis finals on Saturday by defeating Naperville Central’s Tiffany Chen 6-3, 6-3.
Chen had beaten Lorenzini for the state title last year in two sets, so the big win over the tournament’s No. 1 seed left Lorenzini confident going into the final.
But it was not to be.
Carmel senior Brienne Minor matched Lorenzini’s phenomenal power and pulled off a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory in a championship match that lasted nearly three hours.
“I know [Minor] is a senior and she’s a great player, but it’s really tough for me because last year I got second,” Lorenzini said. “But she’s an unbelievable player. She dictated play a lot more than I did. She just stayed in the point longer and that was pretty much it.”
“Bella was on a mission to win,” Hinsdale Central coach Robin Kramer said. “She played phenomenal and to get that close and be denied a state title for the second year in a row, I can’t even imagine what she’s feeling.”
Lorenzini (19-2) was on the verge of taking control of the match in the second set. She led 2-1 and was poised to break Minor’s serve, but the Corsairs’ ace pulled off four straight points to even the games at 2-2.
Lorenzini tried to maintain her composure.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘It’s OK, you got the next game,’ ” Lorenzini said.
But Minor (30-0) turned up her power another level, winning 11 of the final 16 games.
“I’ll learn from it for next year at state,” Lorenzini said. “Playing this match and knowing what I could have done better, I totally learned from this. I’ll go home and practice what I need to practice and come out strong next year.”
The match mesmerized the fans who surrounded the Buffalo Grove courts to cheer the two hardest hitters in the tournament.
“When you have power on power, it’s literally a matter of inches,” Kramer said. “Some of Bella’s errors were so small, but a few little things here and there can change the match.”
ν The Red Devils’ doubles team of Stephanie Dolehide and Erika Oku also came up just short of their quest for a state title, losing in the championship to Stevenson’s Vinaya Rao and Kate Harvey 7-6 (4), 6-4.
“Second was great, especially because [Dolehide] is a freshman and I’m a sophomore,” Oku said.
“It was a really good experience,” Dolehide said. “Even though we didn’t win, I think second is pretty good. We had a good run.”
The Red Devils’ doubles team of Rugile Valiunaite and Sandra Keta took third place.
ν Hinsdale Central won the team title with 49 points to beat out Stevenson (40) and Lyons (39). Last year they shared the state title with Lake Forest (39).
“The first day of practice, when we selected our squad, I said, ‘Welcome to the 2014 season ladies. We want to repeat, but you know what, as a kid I didn’t like to share and we didn’t like to share last year so let’s win it this year by ourselves.’ ”
Hinsdale Central came within a point of its all-time record of 50 set in 2007.