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Girls Tennis: Batavia finishes banner season with two fourth-place finishes at sectionals

Batavia's Alex Klein reaches for the ball during a match against Naperville North's Julie Majcher during the 2A West Aurora Sectional Oct. 16 at West Aurora High School.
Batavia's Alex Klein reaches for the ball during a match against Naperville North's Julie Majcher during the 2A West Aurora Sectional Oct. 16 at West Aurora High School.

AURORA – Leah Puttin fought back tears as she reflected on her season.

It wasn't the finish Puttin intended to have.

But oh, what a fall for Batavia tennis.

Puttin and doubles partner Bella Lins, both juniors, concluded their season Saturday at the Class 2A West Aurora Sectional at the Vaughan Athletic Center with two losses and a fourth-place finish, as did Batavia senior singles player Alex Klein.

The season won't continue on to state this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. But Batavia made plenty of memories along the way. The Bulldogs went 21-0 in dual meets and repeated as DuKane Conference champions.

Puttin, a year removed from going to state as a sophomore with Maddie Durso, went 22-4 with her new doubles partner.

"It was pretty good because a lot of people didn't think we'd be as good because we lost a lot of really good seniors," Puttin said. "The new people that came in really stepped up. We had great team chemistry throughout the year."

Puttin and Lins came back from a set down to beat Naperville Central in three sets on Friday to reach the semifinals – and, in most years, qualify for state. With Saturday's play moved indoors, the Batavia duo lost to Neuqua Valley's Sofia Allen and Abigail Allen 6-2, 6-4, then dropped a tough third-place match 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6) to Neuqua Valley's Hannah Kastenberg and Emiley Piao.

"It kind of stinks," Lins said. "The same thing happened in conference, too. We lost in a third-set tiebreaker. I guess it's something we need to work on, is getting up in tiebreakers."

Klein (18-9), which won both her matches in straight sets Friday, lost to eventual champion Meera Baid of Metea Valley 6-1, 6-0 in the semifinals, then dropped a 7-5, 6-3 decision to Oswego East's Makayla Buenafe in the third-place match.

Batavia scored 18 points as a team to tie Naperville North for second behind Neuqua Valley (27), which won its sixth sectional title in seven years.

Baid (18-1), three times a third-place finisher at sectionals, beat Neuqua Valley sophomore Emily Chiou for the third time this season, this time 6-4, 6-1, to win the singles championship.

"It's my last match of high school tennis, so it meant a lot," Baid said. "I feel grateful that sectionals happened. I didn't expect the season to go that far."

After a back-and-forth first set with Chiou, Baid dominated the second, winning the first five games.

"Emily is very consistent, a smart player. It was definitely a hard match but I'm glad I pulled through," Baid said. "She obviously played pretty well and we had close matches. This time I felt my nerves kicked in, I was pushing the ball, but the second set I started hitting it more."

There was no shortage of drama in the doubles final, the last match to finish. Undefeated and top-seeded Tiffany Zhang and Irene Zhang of Naperville North outlasted DVC rivals Sofia Ramos and Abigail Allen 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) to win their second straight sectional championship.

The Zhangs, both seniors but not related, made top eight at state last year after alternating qualifying for state doubles as freshmen and sophomores with the same doubles partner.

The two girls looked cool as cucumbers throughout Saturday's match, but admitted they felt the pressure build.

"I felt like it wasn't that bad at first but as we got deeper and deeper into the match it was more and more stressful," Tiffany Zhang said. "It's pretty cool to do this again."

The Naperville North pair beat their counterparts from Neuqua Valley for the third time this season, all three close matches, the last two three-setters. They overcame the raw power and emotion Ramos and Allen bring to the court.

"They're powerful, and Sofia has a big presence on the court," Irene Zhang said. "She's very intimidating."

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