Kiven, Kirsch take third in doubles — matching Stevenson’s team finish
Stevenson's Alexxis Kiven (left) and Kendall Kirsch celebrate after winning the third-place doubles match at Saturday's state meet. They helped the Patriots take the third-place team trophy. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 28, 2011 8:15AM
Not … so … fast.
Right after Whitney Young High School’s Kendall Scruggs pounded an overhead smash in a state quarterfinal doubles match at Prospect on Saturday, a WY supporter, standing about 10 feet from the court, yelled, “Yeah, baby!”
He thought, for sure, WY’s Scruggs and Natalie Whalen would win the point late in the second-set tie-breaker against Stevenson sophomore Alexxis Kiven and freshman Kendall Kirsch.
He thought wrong.
Kiven, anticipating well from a baseline, got her racket on the smash and lofted a lob to keep the point alive.
Kiven had an answer for the next smash, as well, and the young Patriots won the point to go up 8-7 in the breaker.
Mr. “Yeah, baby!” must have thought to himself, “Oh, no.”
Kiven/Kirsch took the 16th point of the tie-breaker to clinch a 6-2, 7-6 (7) victory and semifinal berth.
“Alexxis and Kendall earned that tie-breaker,” said Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope, a 1997 Prospect graduate. “Those Whitney Young kids stopped missing shots in the second set … hit big shots on big points.
“I’m really proud of the way Alexxis and Kendall battled late in the second set.”
His pride — for his top doubles team and the rest of his state crew — grew Saturday, as Stevenson, behind Kiven/Kirsch’s program-best third-place showing in doubles, finished third (21 points) for the Patriots’ first state trophy since the 1996 squad took runner-up honors.
Stevenson sophomore Danielle Vasiliev/freshman Michelle Tulchinskaya won three of four matches and reached the Round of 16 in doubles; and freshmen Zoe Manion and Kaylin Dong each won a singles match on Oct. 20.
Hinsdale Central (39) and New Trier (28) went 1-2 in the team standings.
Fourth-place Deerfield (18) finished three points behind Stevenson.
“Contributions from everyone,” Stanhope said. “We benefitted like that all season.”
Pats junior Gabby Demchenko’s season ended at the previous weekend’s Stevenson Sectional — after she’d qualified for state in doubles with Vasiliev. Demchenko’s severe ankle sprain forced Stanhope to deploy Tulchinskaya alongside Vasiliev.
“Hi, I’m the replacement,” a smiling Tulchinskaya, waiting for the start of the rain-delayed first round, said at Buffalo Grove on Oct. 20.
Vasiliev/Tulchinskaya, a combo Stanhope threw together the Monday before State, combined for six crucial team points on Days 1 and 2. They won in straight sets in each of the first two rounds before upsetting 9-16 seed Kathleen Felicelli/Michelle Kannenberg, of Carmel, 3-6, 6-1, 6-0 in the third round.
“Nobody expected us to win (vs. Carmel),” Vasiliev said. “It had to be hard for Michelle, to fill in like she did. I encouraged her, gave her hope.
“Her confidence,” she added, “grew as we progressed in the tournament.”
Kiven/Kirsch’s 2011 record in doubles swelled to 20-1 when they defeated Decatur St. Teresa’s Tracey Kuhle/Amy Kuhle 7-6 (6), 6-2 in the match for third place.
Kiven/Kirsch, seeded 3-4, had a blast … while blasting winners.
In that quarterfinal win against Whitney Young, Kirsch, moments after she and Kiven secured a game in the first set, joyfully skipped to her courtside chair for the change-over.
“It was fun; we had a lot of fun all weekend,” said Kiven. “We also wanted to be aggressive, stay aggressive, finish points at the net. Adrenaline — we had that going for us, too.”
Kiven/Kirsch’s only loss last weekend was to eventual champions Marika Cusick/Caroline Lorenzini, of Hinsdale Central, in a 6-3, 6-3 semifinal.
“Lexxi and Kendall,” said Vasiliev, “hit some amazing shots when the pressure was on. They’re leaders, especially Lexxi.
“Lexxi,” she added, “is so good at encouraging her teammates to play their best, and she’s strong mentally.”
Kiven/Kirsch’s quarterfinal win Saturday morning clinched the third-place trophy for the Patriots. At the time, Stevenson led fourth-place Deerfield by only two points.
Dong’s state singles win on Oct. 20 was worth two points.
Dong, Stanhope pointed, had to survive five match points against her … just to qualify for State.
In a state-qualifying match against Hersey’s Jen Hall at a sectional Oct. 14, Dong escaped with a 5-7, 7-6 (14-12), 6-0 triumph.
Each match point against came in the lengthy tie-breaker.
“Insane,” Kiven recalled on Saturday. “That was the most insane match.”
Dong’s primary strength as a tennis player?
“Consistency,” Kiven and Kirsch chimed, in perfect unison.