Bartlett wins sectional crown
By Dave Heun
St. Charles North’s Brittany Plaszewski in sectionals match vs Geneva’s Kirby Einck on Saturday, October 15. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

If not for Brittany Plaszewski of St. Charles North, the girls’ tennis sectional at St. Charles East on Saturday could have been called “All Bartlett, All of the Time.”

That’s because two Bartlett doubles teams squared off in the sectional title match, while Plaszewski was rolling to her own title in singles with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Bartlett’s Jen Gates.

In doubles action, Gabby Gregario and Jen Parato, actually the Hawks’ No. 2 doubles team, toppled teammates Katie Gates and Kaylen Kress, the squad’s No. 1 doubles pair, 7-5, 6-4.

It allowed Bartlett to loft the sectional championship trophy at the end of the tournament with 30 team points, with Jen Gates and the doubles teams advancing to the state finals next weekend.

“We play them every week in practice, and each of us wins about half the time,” Gregario said of the title matchup against teammates Gates and Kress, who had a tough semifinal victory over St. Charles North’s pair of Kate Lesswing and Ashley Randazzo 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.

In order to advance at the state finals, Gregario said, “We have to keep it consistent, keep the ball in play and control our power.”

Bartlett coach Sue Hannula was like a riverboat gambler walking away with the full pot after her team secured the team trophy.

“I took a real chance in splitting up the doubles teams from last year, when Katie Gates and Gabby Gregario were doubles partners (who reached third round of state finals),” Hannula said.

“But I just felt both teams would be stronger, and with the personalities and the type of games they have, it has worked out really well and they have formed a strong pair of doubles teams.”

St. Charles North will send Plaszewski and the doubles pair of Lesswing and Randazzo, who finished fourth in the tournament after a 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) setback to third-place Kaneland’s state-bound duo of Amelia Napiorkowski and Madi Jurcenko.

Plaszewski followed the slogan on her T-shirt of “Keep Calm, Play On” by being the picture of composure and consistency in drilling a steady stream of passing shots in all of her tournament matches, and not getting flustered when she hit an errant shot.

“The wind was a factor on a few shots because you would hit the ball and it would go wide,” Plaszewski said of the cold, windy conditions. “It was especially tough on short balls.”

Plaszewski worked patiently to keep the ball away from Gates’ powerful forehand shots.

“She was a lefty, so if I were to hit it cross-court her backhand would be there,” said Plaszewski, who returned to tennis for her junior year after taking a season off. “Most likely, her backhand wouldn’t be as good as her forehand, so it was a little easier for me to do it (hit to her backhand).”

St. Charles North coach Eve Tubman figures her No. 1 singles player, now with a 24-2 overall record, plays as if stuck in autopilot. “She is very steady out there, like a little machine,” Tubman said of Plaszewski. “When I watched matches at state last year, the big players were really steady and held it together, and that’s how she is playing.”

Geneva freshman Kirby Einck qualified for state by finishing fourth in the singles competition, after leaving her third-place match against state-qualifier Lexi Welton of Wheaton Academy because of a groin injury she suffered in a semifinal setback to Plaszewski, who has toppled Einck three times this year.

“The wind was hard but it was fun playing her (Plaszewski) again,” Einck said. “Her winners on each side of the court are really tough.”

Geneva coach Maureen Weiler felt Einck did the right thing in bowing out of her third-place match, even though she led 3-1 in the first set.

“It’s a groin injury that was bothering her, and getting her ready for the first match at state is more important than risking further injury,” Weiler said.

Geneva’s doubles pair of Carly Ausman and Emily Malecha fell short in a bid to advance to state after falling to Parato and Gregorio in the qualifying match prior to the semifinals.

Last year the Kaneland duo of Napiorkowski and Lindsay Jurcenko became the first-ever girls’ tennis players at the school to advance to the state finals.

This year, Lindsay’s sister Madi paired with Napiorkowski to do it again, despite missing a chance at the sectional final match by falling to Parato and Gregario 6-3, 6-3.

In the third-place match, the Kaneland pair outlasted St. Charles North as Lesswing played with an injured knee that hampered her lateral movement.

“The girls showed a lot of poise in middle of the second set when St. Charles North’s energy picked up, caught us off guard a little bit and put us back on our heels,” Kaneland coach Tim Larsen said.

“We had to weather the storm and be a little quicker on our feet and match their energy, but Lesswing played with a lot of heart with that injury and she should be proud of herself.”

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