Girls tennis claims bronze medal at state

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The girls tennis team placed in the top three at  state for the first time since 2015, finishing with a score of 26 points over the course of the three-day tournament held from Oct. 24 to Oct. 26.

Despite their score falling short of the 39 and 33 point performances by Lake Forest and Hinsdale Central respectively, the team finished eight points ahead of fourth-place finisher Glenbard West.

“Before the season, I thought that getting third would be a really good achievement for this team,” said head coach Jerry Morse-Karzen. 

“I knew that there were a few teams in front of us like Lake Forest and Hinsdale Central who were really strong, so getting third and fending off the teams that also had an opportunity to do so was quite good.”

The team’s third-place finish was a particularly fulfilling accomplishment considering their and senior Ali Benedetto’s misfortune during the 2018 state tournament.

Trailing third place Stevenson by one point going into the final day of last year’s tournament, Benedetto’s singles match in the consolation bracket semifinals was rained out, costing the team an opportunity to erase the deficit and end their medal drought.

“Last year, we [the team] were really disappointed that state got cancelled because we were on track to get third, but this year we all did well and played our best to make sure we got [third place],” said Benedetto.

Benedetto, who won all but three matches this season, tallied 11 of the team’s points during the state tournament, capping off her New Trier career with two-set victory against Hinsdale Central freshman Nicole Hu in the third place game.

“Finishing third [at state] was definitely a highlight for me and the team,” said Benedetto. “It’s exciting to end my tennis career at New Trier on a win.”

While Benedetto’s dominant run to the state semifinals accounted for nearly half of the Trevians’ total points, she was not alone in her success at state.

Freshman Julia Ross upset Quincy senior Olivia Clayton in the first round of the singles tournament, and the doubles tandem of sophomore Ashtin Hara and freshman Monika Glueck reached the state quarterfinals, ultimately tallying eight points on their way to a sixth-place finish.

“During state, since pressure is high and everyone is trying to play their best, I think it truly brings the best out of everyone,” said Hara. 

“My partner [Monika] and I performed extremely well during the regular season, and then during state we played even better. I’m very proud of how we played and how much we contributed to the 3rd place finish this year.”

After reaching last year’s state doubles quarterfinals with junior Macy Zaban, who picked up three points in this year’s state tournament alongside senior Emily Rhee, Hara repeated the feat as Glueck’s partner this season, helping her freshman teammate become more acclimated to the spotlight along the way.

“As a freshman [this year], I didn’t have much experience playing doubles, but I thought that, throughout the season, I improved a lot in my doubles game,” said Glueck. “By the time my partner [Ashtin] and I got to state, I felt more comfortable at the net and more willing to go for my volleys.”

Hara and Glueck’s impressive performance at state was preceded by a first place finish at sectionals on Oct. 19, securing the doubles title with a victory over Rhee and Zaban in the final.

Those results combined with Benedetto’s second straight singles championship propelled the team to its 11th straight sectional title, a streak that has been sustained because of the consistent depth on the 24-player roster.

“I wish our entire team were given the chance to play at state because I truly miss them when we don’t all get to play together like we do before conference, sectionals, and state,” said Hara. “The other players on our team, even though they [didn’t play] at state, still contributed so much to getting us there, from the practices to the cheering.”

Although the team will certainly lose Benedetto and Rhee next season, there is a high likelihood that the other two-thirds of their state lineup will be back for a run at a 9th state title in 2020.

“We do have four players [from our state lineup] who could be returning, and they’re going to have to make that call if they want to come back; but we’ve been very fortunate to have most come back in the past,” said Morse-Karzen.

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