Fenwick girls tennis coach Gerard Sullivan (second from left) poses with his players and assistant coaches as they hold the IHSA Class 1A championship trophy Oct. 22. The Friars won the first state title in program history with 39 points and sophomore Lily Brecknock won the singles' championship, becoming Fenwick's first player to achieve the feat. (Gerard Sullivan/Contributor)

Before last season, when they finished third in the Class 1A tournament, the Fenwick High School girls tennis team had never hoisted a state trophy.

With five players back, the Friars knew they were in position to at least match that feat, and maybe even go beyond.

Happily, it was the latter on Oct. 22 in Buffalo Grove as Fenwick claimed the Class 1A championship with 39 points, ten better than runner-up Chicago Latin.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Fenwick coach Gerard Sullivan. “I just feel relieved that the girls did what they were capable of. It’s a weight off our shoulders; we knew this was expected.”

Fenwick senior Maeve Paris couldn’t hide her glee.

“It’s crazy, I can’t believe it,” she said. “My brothers (Conor and Martin) won the state football championship last year, and I needed to get one for tennis. We were all very dedicated to winning this year.”

Sophomore Lily Brecknock made history by becoming the first player in program history to win an individual state championship as she defeated Brooklyn Siegel of Wolcott 6-2, 6-4 in the final. But she had to overcome some adversity in the previous two rounds to get there.

(Left to right): Fenwick’s Lily Brecknock, Rachel Abraham, Maeve Paris, Kate Trifilio, Trinity Hardin, and Megan Trifilio pose with the IHSA Class 1A girls tennis championship trophy Oct. 22 in Buffalo Grove. The Friars won the program’s first state title in program history with 39 points and Brecknock won the singles’ championship, also a first. (Gerard Sullivan/Contributor)

“Lily’s last three matches were really tough,” Sullivan said. “She had to dig herself out of a hole in her quarterfinal [she trailed 3-0 in the first set] and was down a set in the semifinal. That was new territory for Lily as she hadn’t had any close matches at all the last couple of months, so doing that with a lot of people around in her first [state] tournament was quite an achievement.”

Sophomore Megan Trifilio finished fourth in singles. She lost in the semifinals to Siegel 2-6, 5-7 and to Latin’s Nicole Kupczyk in the third-place match 5-7, 6-2, and 4-6.

The Friars also received valuable contributions from their doubles teams. After losing in the third round, Paris and sophomore Rachel Abraham ran off four consecutive victories in the consolation bracket and finished sixth. Sophomore Trinity Hardin and senior Kate Trifilio reached the quarterfinals before losing, then won a consolation match.

Fenwick’s Maeve Paris (left) and Rachel Abraham compete in a doubles match at the IHSA girls tennis state tournament Oct. 20-22. The duo finished sixth overall to help the Friars win the Class 1A title, the first state championship in program history. (Gerard Sullivan/Contributor)

Fenwick picked up 15 points from doubles and Sullivan felt that was important in the outcome. 

“Everyone contributed,” he said. “Those back-draw matches from Maeve and Rachel sent a message that we were coming from all directions.”

Paris believed their close-knit chemistry played a large role in the team’s success.

“We were all so supportive of each other,” she said. “Every single practice was hardworking — and competing against each other made us all so much better.”

The championship is especially sweet for Paris and Kate Trifilio, Fenwick’s two seniors. The last three years have presented challenges caused by the pandemic. More over, Paris missed most of last year due to injury but returned in time for the postseason, and her journey has been one of perseverance.

“Last year, I broke my arm the second day of practice,” she said. “It’s made me more driven to win. If COVID and my injury didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have been able to do as well as I did this year because I wouldn’t have had that determination. Winning the title is a fairy-tale ending.”

While Abraham, Hardin, and Megan Trifilio return next fall, Sullivan says Paris and Kate Trifilio will be missed because of the guidance they provided.

“Megan, Rachel, and Trinity will be leading the way [next year],” he said. “They have big leadership shoes to fill, so they’re going to come in and try to be the leaders Kate and Maeve were. They were exemplary and the whole team looked up to them.”

The Friars will move up to Class 2A for the next two seasons, which means they’ll be competing against more high-caliber schools. However, Sullivan is confident Fenwick can do well.

“We’ll be a strong team again next year,” he said. “Finishing in the top 15 or 20 would be a great accomplishment.”

OPRF doubles up

Oak Park and River Forest High School had a pair of doubles teams competing in the IHSA Class 2A state tournament Oct. 20-22.

The Huskies’ unit of Clara Ottati and Maya Schwartz won its opening-round match 3-6, 6-4, 12-10 over Lucy Nunez and Zoe Klicker of Prospect. After losing their second-round match to Shannon Stover and Abigail Gambia of Hinsdale Central, Ottati and Schwartz lost their first consolation match to Barrington’s Sakina Kanji and Emily Yang.

Martha Brennan and Maeve Marzec, OPRF’s other doubles qualifier, won in straight sets 7-5, 6-2 against Niles West, then lost to Bella Schoen and Valentina Bellagamba of Deerfield. In the consolation bracket, Brennan and Marzec defeated Sasha Neidigh and Josie Coan of York 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 and Sandburg’s Neela Browne and Tamryn Leonard 6-2, 6-1 before losing to Camille Dziewonska and Ellie Peskin of Glenbrook North.

The Huskies finished in a tie for 19th in the team standings with six points.

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