ST. CHARLES – Coming into this weekend’s girls tennis sectional tournament at St. Charles East, the Wheaton Academy No. 1 doubles team of Lexi Welton and Betsy Jones knew they were going to have to step up their game against stiffer competition than they saw during the regular season.
“Coming out here is like a whole new game,” Jones said.
“Playing the bigger schools and having to adjust to that is hard,” added Welton, “but it’s so fun.”
Welton and Jones (24-1), both juniors, had a lot of fun in the tournament, going unbeaten in four matches to win the sectional championship and advance to the state tournament, being hosted next week by Buffalo Grove High School and played at neighboring district courts.
“This season has been so much fun,” said Welton, who qualified for state last year in singles. “I love it.”
“And I’m totally new at this,” Jones said. “I’ve never been to state. I lost my first round at sectionals last year as the second doubles [team]. It’s just awesome coming with Lexi and having success here and growing as a team.”
In the finals, Welton and Jones defeated the Bartlett duo of Jitsupa Sirinit and Gabby Gregorio, 6-1, 6-4.
Srinit and Gregorio had reached the championship match by winning an epic semifinal battle with the Kaneland team of Madi Jurcenko and Jelly Emmanouil, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-5.
“It was really close and we played really hard,” Jurcenko said. “They were just really good players. We tried our best. We definitely fought hard.”
The pair of Kaneland sophomores bounced back from the tough loss to defeat St. Charles East’s Haydyn Jones and Kelsie Roberton in the third-place match, 6-3, 6-1.
“To come out third, that’s fine,” Jurcenko said. “We still qualify for state. We’re still going, so we’re happy.”
The first through fourth place winners all advanced to state in both doubles and singles.
The top local finisher in singles was Geneva sophomore Kirby Einck, who bested Kaneland’s Sammie Schrepferman in the third-place match, 6-2, 6-1.
“I achieved my goal,” Einck said. “I made it to state and I finished higher than fourth, so there’s not much more I could ask for.”
Einck was fourth in last year’s sectional at East. Her chance to finish first or second this year was ended in the semifinals by talented Sycamore freshman Angelina Ye, 6-3, 6-1.
“She was just playing great,” Einck said. “She came out. She was ready. She barely missed any returns. Her balls were just top-spin high. She was just really on top of her game.”
Ye proved that by proceeding to dispatch Bartlett junior Jennifer Gates in the finals, 6-4, 6-0. Gates had not lost a single game in her first three matches of the tournament and placed in the top 32 at state last year.
Bartlett won the team title with 20 points, followed by Geneva with 17. Host East and Wheaton Academy tied for third with 14 points, one more than Kaneland.