It was the perfect day to go to the beach. Well over 80 degrees, plenty of sun and warm water temperatures.
But that August day was anything but a day at the beach for the Lake Forest High School girls’ tennis team.
After watching the sunrise at 5:30 a.m., 15 athletes ran stairs, sprinted through the sand and crouched under ramps at Lake Forest Beach. By the time the sun was shining, they had put themselves through a killer workout.
As painful as it may have been at the time, the residual impact of the experience is now revealing itself as the Scouts are off their best start since the 2010 state championship team.
“It just set the tone because we all wanted to do it. It wasn’t something we had to do,” senior Emily Kuchman said. “If we are all just pushing each other and doing it for fun, there’s nothing better.”
Coach Denise Murphy said, “It definitely fosters team unity. Our motto is you get what you give this year.”
Deerfield Invitational Results Show Depth
And so far so good. Saturday’s Invitational at Deerfield was a touchstone moment for the Scouts as they finished first in a tournament that featured area powers New Trier, Glenbrook North and Highland Park.
The results were an example of the top-down depth Lake Forest features in 2012: Junior Elizabeth Zordani won the number one singles competition, not dropping a set in three matches. Junior Catherine Orfanos equaled Zordani’s performance in winning all of her matches in straight sets, while sophomore Margaux Miller was runner up in number three singles.
In doubles, the Scouts won or were runners up in all four flights, with all classes—freshman sophomore, junior, senior—represented.
This roster strength falls in the “nice problem to have” category for Murphy, in her sixth season as coach.
“There is so much talent when I match up strengths and weaknesses, partner chemistry, figuring out which pairing will be the most successful,” said Murphy. “So it’s really fun.”
Different Partners for Zoubareva
One example of this roster diversity was at the New Trier Invitational August 25th. Senior Taya Zoubareva, one of the Scouts better doubles players, won all three of her matches that day playing with three different partners. A two-time all-conference player, Zoubareva was paired with Orfanos in a dramatic three set win over Edwardsville in the third round.
During one point, Zoubareva ran down a lob, stretching to get it back over the net. Running out of room, she crashed into the fence behind the baseline. And although her and Orfanos lost the point, they won the match (11-9 in third set), displaying grit, determination and maybe most important, appreciation for each other.
“It was a full on crash into the fence. I was on the ground,” Zoubareva said. “The fact that she (Orfanos) stopped and made sure I was OK, showed she had my back and I know she’ll be there to get it (when in same position).”
Coach Murphy said, “These girls hustle more than anybody. There is no ball they don’t get to. I’m a true believer you can have the most beautiful strokes in the world, but if your feet don’t get you in the right position, it’s worth nothing.”
Veterans from 2010 State Title Team Abound
There are many faces still around from the Scouts state championship team of 2010. Zordani (along with since graduated Haleigh McPeek) took home the second-place trophy in doubles.
After a year away from high school tennis to play tournaments, Maddie Lipp has returned. As a sophomore, Lipp made it to the singles semifinals at the state tournament in 2010. Nursing an injured shoulder, she is participating in conditioning drills with hopes of playing sometime this year.
Brynn Carlson, Colleen Morris, Caroline Asmussen, Lucy Lincoln, Olivia Murphy and Zoe Park round out the Scouts roster, all of whom have won matches this season.
If Lake Forest is hoisting another championship trophy on October 28th, the final day of the state tournament, they will point to a number of things: Talent, maturity, strength and those sunrise workouts along the beach.
And if they do win it all, will there be a sunrise celebration?
“I would say most definitely,” Murphy said. “We need to come full circle, start and finish. Sunset actually. We are prepared for that.”