State tournament notebook: Niles North’s Michelle Bacalla bounces back after first-round upset

SHARE State tournament notebook: Niles North’s Michelle Bacalla bounces back after first-round upset
SHARE State tournament notebook: Niles North’s Michelle Bacalla bounces back after first-round upset

BUFFALO GROVE — One of the biggest upsets of the girls tennis state tournament was Oak Park-River Forest senior Taylor Arends’ win against Niles North freshman Michelle Bacalla in the first round.

Arends beat Bacalla, a No. 17-32 seed, 6-3, 6-4 on Oct. 23.

“I was just not playing on top of my game. I was just too nervous,” Bacalla said. “I was really down [afterward], and then I just said, ‘You know what, forget it. Whatever. It’s the first round. This is my first time at state. [The loss] doesn’t matter. I can always learn from it.’ ”

Bacalla said that after she lost her goal was to win as many matches as she could in the consolation draw.

Bacalla rebounded with three victories on Oct. 23, and then she won two three-set matches on Friday. Bacalla’s tournament ended with a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Barrington junior Michelle Linden on Friday. Linden finished sixth in the state.

New Trier

Senior Laura Swenson and junior Catherine MacKinnon have a history with Glenbrook South seniors Jessica Chepurda and Martina Dragoytchev.

Chepurda and Dragoytchev ended MacKinnon and Alex Wolkoff’s season in 2013. They also beat Swenson and MacKinnon, New Trier’s No. 1 doubles team, twice this year.

Swenson and MacKinnon peaked at the state tournament, however, and they upset Chepurda and Dragoytchev, a No. 5-8 seed, 6-3, 7-5 in the fourth round.

“They were a lot more aggressive than in previous matches,” Chepurda said. “They were coming more to the net. They were hitting winners from the start [of points].”

Swenson and MacKinnon’s victory showed how they improved this year. MacKinnon said they figured out that they play their best when Swenson is at the baseline and she is at the net, which happened often on Friday.

Swenson and MacKinnon lost 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals to Hinsdale Central’s Erika Oku and Stephanie Dolehide, who took second. Swenson and MacKinnon finished tied for ninth, and helped New Trier (22 points) take fourth as a team.

This was Swenson’s first season playing doubles and she said having MacKinnon on the court with her was helpful — especially in stressful situations at the state tournament.

“I always worry about playing doubles. Like, if I miss, will my partner get upset?” Swenson said. “But she’s always just upbeat and positive. … It kind of releases some pressure to have someone to talk it out with.”

Glenbrook South

Martina Dragoytchev said she and Jessica Chepurda were upset after losing to New Trier’s Laura Swenson and Catherine MacKinnon, and they didn’t play well to start their ensuing match. They lost the first set 6-2 against Libertyville sophomores Danielle Blaser and Callie Klein in the consolation draw.

“We were missing things that we were like, ‘How are we missing this?’ ” Dragoytchev said.

Dragoytchev and Chepurda rallied to win the second set 6-2, but then fell behind 4-0 in the third. The fact that their high school careers — and three-year doubles partnership — could end in two games crossed Dragoytchev’s mind in that moment.

“I definitely thought about that, but you kind of have to put that out of your head and just realize that it doesn’t have to be the last two games,” Dragoytchev said. “You just keep pushing forward.”

They did. Dragoytchev and Chepurda rallied to win six straight games and earned the victory. They then beat Neuqua Valley’s Taylor Hershey and Jessica Chen in straight sets.

Their careers ended with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 loss against Glenbrook North’s Colette O’Regan and Catherine O’Regan on Saturday. Dragoytchev and Chepurda shared a hug and an emotional moment immediately after losing to the O’Regans, but said they were happy with how their careers ended.

They finished in a tie for ninth and helped Glenbrook South (16 points) come in 10th as a team.

Glenbrook North

Sophomore Colette O’Regan and freshman Catherine O’Regan were a No. 5-8 seed in doubles, but Colette O’Regan said they didn’t really have any expectations going into the state meet.

That helped alleviate pressure during the three-day event, especially for Catherine O’Regan.

“There wasn’t a lot of pressure because … I realized how well we were playing,” Catherine O’Regan said. “I knew that we could get far, and so I was excited going into it because once we got our seed, it made us feel really confident.”

The O’Regan sisters played loose at the state tournament and won their first four matches. They lost 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 to Lyons’ Megan Hickey and Stefana Vasic in the state quarterfinals. They beat Glenbrook South’s Jessica Chepurda and Martina Dragoytchev in the consolation quarterfinals before falling 6-3, 7-6 (6) to Stevenson’s Zoe Taylor and Kaylin Dong to tie for seventh place.

Maine South

Sophomores Marti Wind and Kamila Czosnyka advanced one round further in the championship bracket than they did in 2013, but they lost 6-1, 6-0 to Hinsdale Central’s Rugile Valiunaite and Sandra Keta in the state quarterfinals.

After the match, the Maine South duo agreed that Valiunaite and Keta were the best team they played all season. The Hinsdale Central players’ hard serves and groundstrokes made it difficult on Wind and Czosnyka, who also agreed that losing to the pair will serve as inspiration in the offseason.

“You always want to improve everything,” Czosnyka said. “You can always get better.”

Wind and Czosnyka finished tied for seventh in the state with a 5-2 record.

Loyola

At the sectional, senior Abby Witkowski and sophomore Caroline Witkowski said their goal was to advance to the second day of the state tournament.

The sisters and unseeded doubles partners accomplished that goal.

The Witkowskis upset Glenbrook North sophomores Hailey Koretz and Caroline Chatas 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the second round, before losing to eventual state champions Vinaya Rao and Katherine Harvey of Stevenson 6-2, 6-2. The Ramblers pair won two matches in the consolation draw to finish 4-2.

Evanston

Evanston juniors Jessica Ampel and Abbey Moore went 1-2 at the state tournament.

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