Lincoln-Way East doubles player Jacqui Michuda returns ...
October 29, 2013
The Lincoln-Way East doubles squad of Stefanie Hunniford and Jacqui Michuda didn't win the sectional title last weekend.
That honor went to Lincoln-Way North's Sam Pietruszynski and Meg Witt, who rallied for a 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Hunniford and Michuda in the title match. But Hunniford and Michuda had an epic victory in the semifinals that clinched the team championship for East Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Lincoln-Way North Girls Tennis<br> Sectional.
The sectional title is the ninth for the Griffins, who started this season 2-6, since 2002. They finished with 27 points, while North, which won the sectional last season, had 24 points. Tinley Park was third with 20 points. Lincoln-Way Central was fourth at 11 points, and Andrew was fifth with 10 points.
"It's been quite a couple of weeks," East coach Chris Olson said. "Our schedule is one of the toughest in the southwest suburbs, and we overcame a slow start to the season. But we learned a lot of mental toughness to close matches with those early losses."
That showed in the semifinals as Hunniford and Michuda, the No. 2 seed, rallied in the semifinals for a 6-7 (7-9), 7-5, 6-4 victory over North's Alex Hodges and Emily Hodges. The Griffins' duo rallied from a 5-2 deficit in Game 2 and turned back match point in rallying for the sectional-clinching
"That was two hours and 45 minutes of some of the most intense sport I've seen," Olson said of the semifinal match. "Stefanie and Jacqui put it together and got the momentum. They put together five or six pivotal volleys [to win Game 2] and then got up 3-0 in the third
Hunniford and Michuda said that a positive approach was the key.
"We just kept our heads up and stayed positive," said Hunniford, a senior. "We just gave 110 percent and realized it was one game at a time. It was awesome to know we came from the bottom and went to the top."
They didn't, however, realize that it clinched the sectional title for the team until later.
"We had no idea," said Michuda, a sophomore. "That was the best feeling. But [in the title match], we got a little ahead of ourselves."
The Phoenix got a measure of satisfaction in rallying for the doubles title match. Pietruszynski and Witt were the No. 3 seed in the sectional and toppled top-seeded seniors Sarah Florek and Hannah Richardson from Lincoln-Way Central by a score of 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals.
"We had to stay consistent and stay positive throughout," said Pietruszynski, a senior. "Coming in, we didn't know how it would work out [as a doubles team]. But honestly it's been a blessing and feels great."
The duo didn't play doubles together until Sept. 25 in a dual meet against East, which the Phoenix won 5-2.
"Playing with Sam got me to relax," said Witt, a sophomore who started the season at No. 1 singles. "We drive each other out there."
With Hunniford and Michuda trying to rally from a 5-0 deficit in Game 3, Witt hit a lob shot that landed about an inch inside the baseline for the win.
"I was just praying that it went in," Witt said
In the third-place match, the Hodges lost to Florek and Richardson 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
"We beat East in our dual meet, but they won the conference meet, " North coach Wes Cooley said. "Sam and Meg had a great match. But kudos to East for winning the sectional."
East was also helped by taking second and third in singles. Senior Andie Doyle, who was seeded sixth, upset Central junior Mariah Sakellaris 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals and went on to take third. After losing to top-seeded Haley Wilcox 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals, Doyle defeated Lincoln-Way West senior Katie Kaczmarz 6-2, 6-0 for third place.
Hope Ritter, a senior, placed second for the second straight season. She was the No. 2 seed but lost to Wilcox, a junior from Tinley Park.
"Haley Wilcox is undefeated, and for Hope to go to a tiebreaker with her says something," Olson said. "Hope is now a three-time state qualifier [finishing third as a sophomore], and she wants to get points at state."
Olson credited Ritter for helping the team turn around.
"We had lost to North [5-2 on Sept. 25], and we talked for a half-hour afterward," Olson said. "It was Hope Ritter who stepped up and said we didn't have to accept that."
Olson was also happy that nearly everyone that qualified for state was from a Lincoln-Way school.
"Seven of the eight that qualified for state came from our Lincoln-Way district," Olson said. "I know [the sectional final day] wasn't easy for Wes Cooley, but he deserves a lot of credit for running a lot of the summer tournaments in the
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