Kirby Einck trailed, but she was not down.
Matched against Naperville’s Cindy Liu, a girl who had beaten her in their previous seven meetings, Einck was a couple match points in a third-set tiebreaker away from another defeat at a USTA event in Aurora.
Einck, now a senior at Geneva, rallied to win what she called her proudest tennis moment.
“Determination — I don’t give up,” said Einck, reflecting on what pushed her through. “Tennis is something I’ve put a lot into.”
Adversity is not an opponent Einck has faced often on the high school tennis courts. A state qualifier each of her first three years at Geneva, Einck went 27-5 last year, bringing her career record to 82-19. She went 4-2 at state and won the Upstate Eight River singles title.
Still, it is when Einck is down in a match where her true colors shine brightest.
“She carries herself very well on the court, is very polite,” Geneva coach Maureen Weiler said. “She’s a quiet kid anyway but she gets quieter when she’s losing. When she struggles she figures it out.”
Composure is a characteristic Einck is most aware of. She is solid and consistent, gracious and never insulting to an opponent.
“I’ve been doing USTA tournaments for a long time and there are so many girls who act terribly there and scream when they’re losing,” Einck said. “I try to maintain a level head. I feel that lets me compete better.”
If Einck is well-schooled in proper tennis etiquette, it was perhaps passed down from her mom.
Karen Einck played collegiately at Northern Illinois, and later became a teaching tennis pro.
Her first two children, boys Connor and Quinn, both played football for Geneva, but it was Kirby who inherited mom’s game. Kirby was on the court by age four, and was playing competitively by eight.
She’s been ranked in the top 50 in the Midwest by the USTA since age 12. Tennisrecruiting.net has Einck ranked a four-star recruit.
Her college future could be at West Point.
Army’s coach contacted Einck a summer ago. The academy was attracted to Einck’s baseline power game and classic stroke, but was equally impressed by her demeanor on the court.
Einck, who carries a 3.97 GPA, has been accepted academically but still must go through the nomination process to qualify for a school she deems a perfect fit for her personality.
“I’m a rule follower,” Einck reasoned. “I love the structure there.”
One more year left of high school, and Einck feels her game has progressed after a summer that included a pair of wins over college players at a tournament in Michigan.
“I’m more aggressive,” Einck said. “I come to the net and put balls away at the net better than last season. I feel it’s become a strength.”
TOP 5 TEAMS TO WATCH
1. Geneva: The Vikings, sectional champs last year, bring back the bulk of their lineup, led by three-time state qualifier Kirby Einck at No. 1 singles. Grace Krueger qualified for state as a freshman and is back at No. 2 singles. Shannon Foster and Emma Hazel will play No. 1 doubles, Hazel a returning qualifier. Elizabeth Prendergast is a returning conference champ.
2. Oswego East: Senior doubles pair Lexi Blackmon and Leena Hwang, state qualifiers the last two years, aim to lead the sectional champ Wolves to their fourth straight conference title. Junior Jaiere Harlow takes over for graduated sister Sajela at No. 1 singles. Haley Clebanoff, a two-time conference champ, moves up to No. 2 singles.
3. Kaneland: Sammie Schrepferman, state qualifier the last two years, returns at No. 1 singles to anchor a senior-laden lineup. Madi Jurcenko and Angelica Emmanouil were honorable mention all-state and are returning conference champs at No. 1 doubles, as are Colleen Landers and Stephanie Karolewicz at No. 2 doubles.
4. Batavia: Senior Nora McClure, a 2013 state qualifier, is back at No. 1 singles for the Bulldogs, a close sectional runner-up to Geneva. Senior Sydnee Unterberg, a returning doubles qualifier, will pair with sophomore Julianne Robinson at No. 1 doubles. Junior Kate McClure and senior Ashlyn Turner are projected at No. 2 and No. 3 singles.
5. Waubonsie Valley: Seven 20-match winners return for the Warriors, led by singles players Susanna Rantanen, Riya Sanjay and Deepika Khanna, the latter a conference champ at No. 3 singles last year. Anjeli Manam and Maasa Motoyama both played doubles last year.
TOP 10 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lexy Blackmon, Oswego East, sr.
Kirby Einck, Geneva, sr.
Carley Frauenhoff, West Aurora, jr.
Jaiere Harlow, Oswego East, jr.
Michelle He, Metea Valley, so.
Grace Krueger, Geneva, so.
Nora McClure, Batavia, sr.
Susanna Rantanen, Waubonsie Valley, sr.
Sammie Schrepferman, Kaneland, sr.
Liz Stefancic, West Aurora, fr.