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Tennis: Stefancic's state doubles title as sweet as Sugar


West Aurora's Liz Stefancic (standing), a Sugar Grove resident, and teammate Maria Goheen won the Class 2A doubles state championship in Buffalo Grove on Oct. 21.
West Aurora's Liz Stefancic (standing), a Sugar Grove resident, and teammate Maria Goheen won the Class 2A doubles state championship in Buffalo Grove on Oct. 21.

The symmetry was not lost on Liz Stefancic.

Twenty years after twin sisters Natalie and Stephanie Matko, representing the same neighborhood and school, captured the second of back-to-back girls tennis doubles state championships, Stefancic returned the favor.

A lifelong resident of Prestbury, the only Sugar Grove neighborhood that feeds into the West Aurora School District, Stefancic and partner Maria Goheen did not drop a set in capturing the Class 2A doubles championship at Buffalo Grove High School last month.

“I think we were really in tune,” said Stefancic, an uncommitted senior. “The common theme of that [championship on Oct. 21] was making big shots at big times.”

Stefancic and Goheen finished a perfect 28-0 in doubles play.

The girls played singles in Upstate Eight Conference Valley dual matches and the tournament to maximize their team point potential.

The strategy paid off when the Blackhawks edged Glenbard East by a single point to win a third straight divisional title.

After winning a sectional title at home, Stefancic and Goheen, the No. 2 state seed, vanquished all foes at state in 12 straight games.

But there were moments of anxiety for the two players.

“Liz said that was kind of a turning point,” West Aurora coach Bruce Fraser said of the hard-fought Round of 16 victory over Catherine O’Regan and Samantha Frishman of Glenbrook North.

The Hinsdale South tandem of Sylwia Mikos and Aimee Puz found out about Stefancic and Goheen the hard way in the quarterfinals. Stefancic and Goheen won love-love to reach the semifinals.

“That was something special,” Fraser said of the girls’ flawless performance.

“We know we have complete confidence in each other,” said Goheen, a junior transfer from Rosary. “Liz is a welcome asset at the net.”

Chemistry is critical in doubles play.

“We tried to mesh our two games together,” Stefancic said. “We were trying to take advantage of our strengths. The strategy worked out pretty well.”

“Maria is like the Matko sisters [in her style of play],” Fraser said. “[Stefancic] has more reach at the net. Her serve is bigger. They were able to do well, first and foremost, because they are great athletes.”

The West Aurora partners advanced to the state championship match with a 6-3, 7-5 victory in the semifinals against the Hinsdale Central duo of Sarah Badawi and Kathryn Treiber.

Stefancic and Goheen drew Camryn Salter and Darinka Stepan of Chicago Public League power Whitney Young in the finals.

“We were down 3-5 in the first set,” Stefancic said.

But the Blackhawks’ upperclassmen rallied to force a tiebreaker.

Stefancic and Goheen won the opener 7-6 before polishing off Salter and Stepan 6-2 in the final set.

“It was a backhand volley [by Goheen for match point],” Stefancic said. “It was a winner. It was a super happy moment. There were so many girls from past West Aurora programs as well as staff there.”

The Blackhawks tied conference rival Glenbard East, which featured undefeated singles champion Kolie Allen, for eighth at state with 14 points.

Links to the famed Matko family –eldest sister Michelle also was instrumental to the Blackhawks’ state championship teams in 1996 and 1997 – are inevitable.

“There are too many factors for there to be an adequate comparison,” Stefancic said.

“Both [doubles teams] would be really hard to play against,” Fraser said.

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