For the first time since 2012, Evanston will be sending multiple athletes to compete at the state finals in tennis.
All participating players (two singles and two doubles) for Evanston advanced past the first round of the Niles West sectional tournament, with Anastasia Goncharova and the doubles pair of Margot Connor and Annie Hedges qualifying for the state finals.
“I was so happy with how everybody played in the first round,” said Evanston head coach Joyce Anderson,
“They played strong, they played smart and they didn’t play scared. We did get first rounds for our non-seeded players but they did what they needed to do.”
For Goncharova, last year’s state runner up, and 2017 sectional champion in singles, qualifying for state was almost a given.
Nevertheless she still had to overcome tough competition to qualify, and faced a familiar foe in championship match in Niles North’s Michelle Bacalla, who she dispatched in straight sets.
Joining Goncharova at the state tournament for the first time is the doubles pair of Conner and Hedges, who have improved tremendously throughout the season.
Anderson said: “This doubles team pulling it out…I knew they were going to win, but they had to beat the nerves. It’s a different environment with a lot of pressure and they got through it, and I’m really proud of them.”
One thing that may have helped with the nerves is that Connor and Hedges did not even realize they were playing in a state qualifying match until after they had won.
Hedges said: “It left less pressure on us during the match. I think if we knew that it was a state qualifying match we would have felt a little more pressure to win.”
Although it may have taken a little bit of time for the pair to realize the magnitude of their win, the two were still just as ecstatic.
What makes the qualification even more special is that this is the first season where they have played together. Connor is a converted singles player, while Hedges played with another partner last season.
“Just working together, practicing together, and figuring out eachother’s strenghs and weaknesses has helped us the most,” said Hedges.
“We kind of combined from two opposite extremes to one, but we seemed to just click. Plus we’re really good friends so that probably helped as well.
Connor added “Coming into the year I didn’t realize were going to be such a good team. I’m just really excited to continue to play with Annie.”
The two will play their first ever match at a state final’s Thursday at Hoffman Estates, while Goncharova, the number two overall seed on the singles side, will open up play at Buffalo Grove.
Coach Anderson concluded: “They’re going to give anyone they play a run for their money and I’m excited to see what they do.”