Sound player Stevenson’s Kirsch making plenty of noise during freshman season
Stevenson's Kendall Kirsch hits a forehand shot to Lake Forest's Megan Morris during the No. 2 singles final at conference on Friday. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 16, 2011 12:55PM
Three of Kendall Kirsch’s favorite sounds, in no particular order:
A tennis ball, as it violently collides with the sweet spot of her tennis racket.
Happy panting from her family’s dog, Bridget.
Jason Derulo’s “It Girl” lyrics.
“That’s a pretty good song,” said Kirsch, a Stevenson High School freshman.
Good enough that it would move her to sing it, on the team bus.
Or anywhere else.
“The best singing voice on our team?” Patriots junior Gabby Demchenko said near of the end of Friday’s NSC girls tennis meet at Lakes.
“I’d have to go with Kendall’s.”
But it’s Kirsch’s tennis game that would wow Simon Cowell — if Cowell were a judge on a TV show featuring talented netters.
“Kendall has a lot of energy when she plays,” Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope said. “Foot speed, athleticism, intensity … and she loves to compete. An absolute gamer.
“I love that other freshmen in our program get to see her work in practice and play matches.”
Four freshmen, including Kirsch, helped Stevenson capture the NSC Meet title on Friday. Patriots entrants won four of the five flights and amassed 38 points.
Reigning NSC and state champion Lake Forest (32), which swept the five flights last fall, finished runner-up.
In three matches Kirsch lost only three games — all in the final — at the two-day tourney. She beat LF senior Megan Morris 6-2, 6-1 for the No. 2 singles title Friday morning.
“And Megan,” Stanhope said, “played really well … probably the best I’ve ever seen her play.”
Kirsch’s potent all-court game has lifted her all season. As a fill-in for injured No. 1 singles player Alexxis Kiven, she beat Mundelein junior Ari Dechter 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 on Sept. 30.
Dechter took fourth at the IHSA state meet last year.
“Kendall expects to win, and she’s a confident player … in kind of a quiet way,” said Stanhope.
The Long Grove resident has been making significant noise, on courts, for a number of years. Her current USTA singles rankings, in the 14-and-under division: No. 118, national; No. 15, Midwest region. Her Midwest singles ranking, in Girls 16s, is 92nd.
“I love hitting the slow ball (approach shot) and I love to get my feet set to hit it,” said the 5-foot-6 Kirsch.
What usually follows, if Kirsch’s opponent manages to return the approach shot: an easy put-away volley, or a no-doubt-about-it overhead smash.
“I just enjoy being on a tennis court,” she said.
Time with Bridget, her 7-year-old spaniel, rivals court time.
“She had a pancreatic thing, and, before that, she tore an ACL,” Kirsch said. “She’s all good now.”
Better than good was Stevenson’s tennis crew at the conference meet. Freshmen Zoe Manion/Kaylin Dong topped the No. 2 doubles field; freshman Michelle Tulchinskaya and junior Elizabeth Ettleson won the No. 3 doubles title; Kiven, a sophomore, defeated LF sophomore Elizabeth Zordani 6-0, 7-6 (6) in the No. 1 singles final; and Demchenko and sophomore Danielle Vasiliev lost 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 to Lake Forest’s Taya Zoubareva/Victoria Falk in the No. 1 doubles championship.
Or the match of the tourney.
All four combatants majored in aggressiveness and minored in shot-making.
The points, even at the end, were lengthy and highly competitive.
“We were a little nervous at the beginning,” said Demchenko, who has battled tendinitis in her left knee for most of the season. “But we never stopped fighting.
“We were into it, the whole time.”
On the schedule: Stevenson vies for state berths at its sectional this weekend, beginning Friday afternoon. The sites: VHAC and Vernon Hills High School’s courts.
Flashback: Stevenson (25 points) finished runner-up to Deerfield (29) at last fall’s Stevenson Sectional. Demchenko/Vasiliev won the doubles title, downing Buffalo Grove twins Dana and Lauren Goggin 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 in the final. Kiven took third in singles.