ST. CHARLES – This is the year to expect the unexpected.
Without a state tournament to prepare for due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this weekend offered a conclusion to the girls’ tennis season at St. Charles East.
Naturally, the Saints’ entire weekend Class 2A sectional tournament was forced indoors to the nearby Norris Recreation Center due to rainy, windy conditions.
“Going indoors for 20 hours is sort of the year 2020 in a nutshell,” said St. Charles North coach Sean Masoncup. “It was a long day but I’m so glad we were able to get it in.”
The host Saints captured their second consecutive sectional championship by a 29-22 margin over the second-place North Stars.
“This season, every day was a challenge for the kids, parents and coaches,” said Saints coach Matt Bulman. “It was such a great way to end the season for our team. The girls are so happy. Words can’t describe it.”
Wheaton Warrenville South placed third with 18 points.
St. Charles East senior Emaira Saini closed out her high school career in style, winning the sectional singles title with a come-from-behind, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Wheaton Warrenville South junior Emma Beres (16-9).
“It was really cool,” said Saini, who finished with a 17-6 record. “I didn’t expect to win a sectional title. I had to keep pushing myself.”
Earlier in the day, Saini earned a hard-fought, 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 semifinal victory over West Chicago’s Christina Kapetaneas.
“Emaira didn’t have her ‘A’ game but she still managed to do it,” said Bulman. “It was pure willpower. It’s the first time she has won a sectional title.
“I have seen plenty of times where girls lost first sets and it took the most out of them. Emaira showed all heart on that court. There was no give up in that kid. Her two-hand backhand wasn’t working today so she had to play a little differently.”
Ironically, it was the second time this season that Saini defeated Beres in 3 sets, having earned a 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 win on Sept. 22.
“That earlier match was for her 100th win,” said Bulman. “I guess you could say she came full circle today.”
“I was a little burned out from my semifinal match,” said Saini. “I just kept telling myself, ‘I want this.’ ”
St. Charles North seniors Tatum Settelmyer and Leia Papanicholas (17-3) captured the sectional doubles crown with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over St. Charles East’s Caroline Donati and Smita Dhar (18-5).
The victory came a week after an impressive DuKane Conference championship doubles triumph over Batavia’s Leah Puttin and Bella Lins.
“It’s the first time in a long time that a St. Charles North doubles team has won a sectional championship — and we’ve had some talented girls,” said Masoncup. “I’m not sure if we’ve ever had a team win conference and sectional titles the same season.”
In the semifinals, Settelmyer and Papanicholas downed the Saints’ Megan Conroy and Hannah Chapman (18-5), 7-6 (3), 6-2.
Freshman Maddie Chaggaris added a fourth-place singles showing for the North Stars, losing to Kapetaneas (9-6) for third place.
“She played awesome,” said Masoncup. “Hopefully, this will drive her for next year.”
The Saints’ Conroy and Chapman took third, beating the Tigers’ Grace DeMars and CC Huelskoetter (14-11), 6-3, 6-4.
“Nothing was easy,” said Bulman. “This is our state tournament — our finale. The girls took advantage of every second.”