St. Charles East’s Jaci Spoerl feels renewed after heart surgery

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Jaci Spoerl doesn’t know how her season will wind up, and in the big picture it’s not that significant.

More important is she now takes the tennis court with a clear mind — and a clean bill of health.

For the last three years Spoerl, a senior at St. Charles East, was afflicted by random episodes of a racing heart, lightheadedness and chest pains. During tennis camp this summer those attacks increased to three or four times a day.

On Aug. 20, tests revealed Spoerl had supraventricular tachycardia, a rapid heartbeat that originates from the upper chamber of the heart. Doctors told Spoerl it was not a life-threatening condition, but she would need surgery.

“I was really terrified when they told me,” she said.

Spoerl, penciled in at No. 1 singles this fall, opted to postpone surgery to try to get through the season first. But the episodes continued; she was forced to take a medical default in several matches.

Eventually Spoerl and her family decided surgery could not wait any longer. On Sept. 11, three days after her last match, she went through the six-hour procedure at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Discharged the next day, Spoerl had a tennis racket in her hand 10 days later.

In a twist of fate on Sept. 20 — the day Spoerl was supposed to return to matches — Emily Sullivan, a member of St. Charles East’s No. 1 doubles team, fell in a match at Prospect and broke her wrist.

The season-ending injury opened a spot in the Saints lineup.

Saints coach Matt Bulman needed a strong hitter there, and Spoerl is by far his best. A lighter doubles field at sectionals only made the decision to slide in Spoerl more logical.

Spoerl and Paige Ackerman won their first match together Sept. 23 against Larkin.

Spoerl had played almost exclusively singles since freshman year, but was receptive to the move.

“This is our best chance to get to state,” Bulman said.

Most importantly, Spoerl feels great.

“I used to come off the court and feel like I was having an anxiety attack and it got to me emotionally. Now I don’t have that,” Spoerl said. “I feel a ton stronger. It’s really comforting to know I’m OK.”

Elgin wins elusive title

Elgin and first-year coach Dan Charak are filled with joy after winning the Larkin Quad this past weekend.

It is the first championship in five years for the Elgin program — and especially meaningful to Charak, a 2004 grad who played for the boys team.

“I’ve been carrying the plaque around like the Stanley Cup,” Charak said.

The key match came at No. 1 singles, where Elgin senior Dahlia Keonavongsa played up-and-coming freshman Alaina Kanthaphixay of Streamwood. Keonavongsa took the first set in an 11-9 tiebreaker, and then dropped the second 6-2 before pulling out the third in the 10-8 supertiebreaker.

Those four points proved crucial, Elgin winning the team title by a point.

“I got sunstroke,” Charak said, “but it was well worth it.”

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