Fitness carries Lake Forest to state tennis title
Lake Forest freshman Christina Zordani rips a backhand during a doubles match against Glenbrook North Saturday. Zordani's aggressive style helped her claim the state doubles championship with partner Maddie Lipp, a victory that spurred Lake Forest to a te
Updated: October 26, 2012 5:48PM
BUFFALO GROVE — Depth and skill are mandatory traits for any tennis team hoping to win a state championship. But the third component needed to prevail at the oft-grueling three-day state tournament is fitness.
Lake Forest — which won the 2012 state championship Saturday — has been keenly aware of that formula during coach Denise Murphy’s tenure. The Scouts began conditioning as a team before the season, and that dedication paid off on the final day at state.
Winning state “was our goal we’ve been working at,” Lake Forest junior Elizabeth Zordani said. “Every practice has been really intense, and we’ve been doing a lot of fitness to prepare for (state).”
Lake Forest was awarded the state title as the sunlight waned over Buffalo Grove High School on Saturday. The Scouts scored 39 points to finish three ahead of runner-up Hinsdale Central (36 points). New Trier (28), Glenbrook South (24) and Lyons (20) rounded out the top five.
Lake Forest senior Maddie Lipp and freshman Christina Zordani — Elizabeth Zordani’s younger sister — won the state doubles title about an hour before the team trophies were awarded, but Elizabeth Zordani’s day still wasn’t done.
The junior spent a few minutes celebrating with her teammates before leaving for her fifth-place match against Marian junior Gaby Rosales. Elizabeth Zordani’s 7-5 victory over Rosales — consolation matches were shortened on the final day of the tournament because of a six-hour rain delay on Friday — was her fourth and final match of the day. It also underlined a big reason why the Scouts were able to win their second state title in three years Saturday.
“I think the key to everything was fitness,” Elizabeth Zordani said. “We’ve been waking up at six in the morning to do fitness. Before school started, we would do beach runs and a lot of training. That prepared us.”
Friends in the end
Juniors were awarded each of the top four seeds in the state singles tournament on Oct. 16, which set the stage for semifinal matches between two sets of good friends.
Although the seeds didn’t hold in the top-half of the singles bracket — Glenbrook South’s Caroline Ryba and New Trier’s Carol Finke, the No. 1 seed and a No. 3-4 seed, respectively, didn’t advance to the semifinals — Lyons’ Alex Chatt and Wheaton Warrenville South’s Keisha Clousing made it to Saturday’s semifinals unscathed.
Chatt and Clousing played a hard-fought, three-set match that came down to the final game. Clousing managed to break Chatt’s serve in the final game to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 en route to winning the state singles title.
Chatt finished second to Morgan Park Academy’s Jerricka Boone at last year’s state tournament. The sting of once again coming so close to a title stuck with her after she beat Naperville Central’s Tiffany Chen to finish third Saturday, but Chatt said she was happy to see Clousing win.
“We’re friends on and off the court, so I was cheering for her in the end,” Chatt said. “Out of everyone here, I was OK to lose to her.”
Depth carries New Trier
The depth of New Trier’s girls tennis program shined throughout the season, and it came through for the Trevians at the state tournament.
Junior Carol Finke finished eighth overall in singles, and each of New Trier’s three other state tournament entrants — junior Taylor Tamblyn and the doubles teams of freshman Cammy Frei and senior Kirstie Woodbury and juniors Lily Schroeder and Alex Wolkoff — went 4-2 at the state tournament to help the Trevians finish third overall with 28 points.
Finke’s late-season return from a stress fracture in her right wrist helped New Trier achieve a third-place team finish, but the Trevians’ depth and the way the players pushed each other was a major asset over the course of the season.
“I thought we had a great group of girls together, and we all had fun with each other,” Woodbury said. “We were competitive and made each other better throughout the season.”
Cusick, Lorenzini walk away content
Hinsdale Central seniors Marika Cusick and Caroline Lorenzini entered the state tournament as the only players in the singles and doubles fields who had won a state title.
The doubles duo left the tournament disappointed that this year didn’t end like 2010 and 2011 did — with Cusick and Lorenzini winning a doubles title. Still, their status as state champions allowed the pair to feel content about what they accomplished at Hinsdale Central.
“I’m happy,” Cusick said after the third-place match. “We played well in the third(-place match). It’s like, we won twice and you can’t really say we’re bad.”
New partner, similar result
Stevenson junior Alexxis Kiven teamed with Kendall Kirsch to finish third in doubles at the 2011 state tournament, but she was forced to find a new partner when Kirsch became ill at the mid-way point of this season.
Sophomore Kaylin Dong moved from singles to doubles to pair with Kiven, and the pair nearly replicated Kiven and Kirsch’s 2011 state tournament performance. Kiven and Dong only dropped nine games in their first five matches, but lost to St. Teresa’s Tracy Kuhle and Amy Kuhle 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals before falling to Hinsdale Central’s Marika Cusick and Caroline Lorenzini 6-3, 7-5 in the third-place match Saturday.
Although the expectations — both internal and external — were high for Dong, Kiven was pleased with how the underclassman played against some of the state’s top doubles teams.
“I think she stepped up to the plate,” Kiven said. “She focused hard and she really wanted to do well. I’m proud of her. She played well.”
Emme thrives in back draw
Naperville Central freshman Tiffany Chen was one of the biggest stories of the state tournament. Chen, a No. 17-32 seed, upset No. 1 seed Caroline Ryba of Glenbrook South on Oct. 19. She then beat Lake Forest’s Elizabeth Zordani, a No. 5-8 seed, in the quarterfinals en route to a fourth-place finish.
The only other No. 17-32 singles seed who finished in the top-eight at state was Glenbrook South’s Annemarie Emme. But Emme’s path to a top-10 individual finish was much quieter than Chen’s.
The Glenbrook South sophomore lost 6-3, 6-2 to state champion Keisha Clousing on the first day of the three-day tournament, but she responded by winning five consecutive matches in the back draw. Emme’s winning streak in the back draw was vital in helping Glenbrook South finish fourth overall, which is the school’s best-ever finish at the state tournament.