Highland Park sends two doubles teams on state runs

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Highland Park sent two doubles teams to the girls tennis state tournament in 2014. For a team with a historically strong doubles program, that is not a surprise.

More revelatory is the fact that neither team came together until late September.

“It took a while for us to figure out what we wanted to do,” coach Steve Rudman said.

During the three-day state tournament, hosted by Buffalo Grove, the Giants’ No. 1 team of seniors Casey Frommer and Lizzie Raab won three matches in the front draw and two in the back. The No. 2 team of Rachel Retsky and Jessica Rosenberg won three matches (two in the front, one in the back).

The eight victories (against four losses) gave Highland Park 13 total points. The Giants’ 16th-place finish was the highest of any school that did not earn a point from the singles draw.

“I’d love to have balance. But unfortunately, a lot of our kids are not full-time players,” Rudman said. “One of the things we’ve been able to do is put together kids who can play and have more success in doubles.”

On Sept. 19, Highland Park played Edwardsville in a dual meet. For the first time, Rudman paired Frommer with Raab.

“We were switching around a lot before,” said Frommer, a strong volleyer compared with Raab’s more baseline-oriented game. “I guess we just clicked.”

Rudman added: “We don’t want to sit back and pound ground strokes all day long. We want our baseline kids set up their partners and have our net kids active and aggressive. They practiced a lot of that.”

The pair won their match against Edwardsville and won again the following day against New Trier. Although Retsky and Rosenberg lost their matches, they were competitive enough for Rudman to keep them together.

A 17-4 record by Frommer and Raab through the rest of the regular season and Central Suburban League tournament earned them a top seed at the Highland Park Sectional on Oct. 18. They won the tournament, defeating teams from traditional powers Carmel, Libertyville and Lake Forest.

That earned them a 9-16 seed for the state tournament while Retsky and Rosenberg qualified for a 17-32 seed.

“We played outstanding at sectionals. It prepared us a lot [for state],” Frommer said.

On Thursday, Frommer and Raab did not drop a set in rounds one through three. In Friday’s fourth round, Frommer and Raab faced Stevenson’s team of junior Vinaya Rao and freshman Katherine Harvey. After dropping the first set 6-3, Frommer and Raab led Rao and Harvey 4-3 in the second. Twice, the two were one point away from going up 5-3. But Rao and Harvey battled back and the eventual state champions won the second set 6-4 to take the match.

“We put up a great fight. We almost had them,” Frommer said.

Two wins in the back draw got them to Saturday, the third year in a row a Giants doubles team has been alive for the tournament’s third day. A 6-2, 6-2 loss to Maine South’s Kamila Czosnyka and Marti Wind ended their season. Retsky and Rosenberg lost in the fifth round of the back draw Friday.

It took Rudman most of the season to feel comfortable with his lineup, but once he did, both teams thrived.

“I’m glad I did the process and it worked. Both teams did a great job,” he said.

An earlier version of this story misstated the strengths of Casey Frommer and Lizzie Raab. Frommer has an excellent volley game while Raab excels on the baseline.

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