Winnetka, Sports

New Trier tennis leaves no doubt as it claims program’s first state title in 19 years

Rothenberg-Lesterhuis get first NT doubles crown in 33 years; Liu records best singles finish in 31 years

Collecting eight state trophies (top-three finishes) in the previous 12 seasons, New Trier girls tennis is no doubt one of the best in Illinois.

But the best? The moniker has eluded the Trevians, whose state trophies since 2010 do not include a championship. That changed on Saturday, Oct. 21, when New Trier completed a dominating state weekend with a first-place finish — its first state title since 2004 and 10th overall (including one as New Trier West).

“We all did a little better (from previous years) and things broke for us nicely,” New Trier coach Jerry Morse-Karzen said. “We had a good run and put up a fair amount of points. … We had a pretty significant lead. It was a pretty decisive victory for New Trier.

He added, “It was just a really good year and a really happy ending. I’m very happy for the kids and very proud.”

The Trevians racked up 35 team points, well ahead of second-place Stevenson (20) and third-place Deerfield and Sandburg (16). Hinsdale Central, which placed first the previous two seasons just ahead of the runnerup Trevs, took fifth.

Ariane Lesterhuis (left) and Keri Rothenberg after winning the doubles bracket at the IHSA championships.

With its success the first two days of the tournament, Thursday-Friday, Oct. 19-20, the Trevians actually were assured a state championship before the final day. But there was plenty of suspense ahead for New Trier. It had three entries still in play, including two in championship bouts.

Keri Rothenberg and Ariane Lesterhuis became New Trier’s first doubles state champion since 1990 (Megan Mawicke and Wendy Fix) on Saturday at Buffalo Grove High School where they came from behind to best Sandburg’s Maia Loureiro and Estela Loureiro, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Rothenberg, a junior who played in her third doubles state tournament, said the duo went into the tournament hoping for a top-four finish.

“It’s really exciting. Honestly, we weren’t expecting it,” she said. “We went into the tournament with hopes of doing better (than previous years). … We just kind of kept winning. We played really well.”

Rothenberg played the previous two state finals with Lucy Parrilli, who moved out of state prior to this season. She said the paring with Lesterhuis, a sophomore, was a good match. The two played in a couple preseason tournaments and took only one loss during the season — to Hinsdale Central’s Abigail Gambla & Sydney Shuster.

Rothenberg and Lesterhuis met the pair once again in the state doubles bracket and exacted revenge with a 7-5, 6-1 triumph.

“That was the match I was the most nervous for,” Rothenberg said. “In the regular season we played a close match … we came out a little shaky but then got going. We were really strong in the second set and dominated that set.”

Rothenberg and Lesterhuis become the sixth New Trier doubles team to win a state championship. The Trevians also have three singles champs, the last of whom was Wendy Fix in 1992.

Madison Liu capped a storied tenure at New Trier with a seond-place finish at state.

Fix’s ’92 finish is the last singles performance better than Madison Liu’s over the weekend. The Trevians senior and four-year leader topped her impressive high school resume with a second-place finish. Liu placed fourth in 2022 and fifth in 2021 (no state tournament in 2020).

Liu dropped the championship match 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to the tournament’s top seed, Jessica Kovalicik, of Plainfield North, who also beat Liu in 2022 en route to second place.

“I feel great overall. It was good that I improved each year. Obviously I wanted to win, but second place is still really good and I obviously played a great player as well,” Liu said. “Every time we play, we’re pretty close. … We always have good matches. I made more mistakes than I’d like. She had fewer unforced errors.”

On her way to the championship match, Liu did not drop a set in her five victories. She downed her quarterfinal opponent 6-1, 6-3 and semifinal foe 6-2, 6-1.

Liu gave plenty of credit to the Trevians support system. She said the fans made a real impact for her on the court.

“The cheering and support I had was helping a lot,” she said. “This year we had so much support from the rest of the team, friends, family and the boys varsity team. It really encouraged me to play my best tennis when I needed it most.”

Liu was also the recipient of the Tom Pitchford State Sportsmanship Award, given to a competitor who demonstrates strong character throughout her matches.

Her coach said his senior was most deserving of the honor.

“She’s a perfect representation on what sportsmanship is about,” Morse-Karzen said. “She has constantly put us on her back for four years and she was so solid again. We’ve always been able to count on her.”

New Trier’s second doubles team, junior Coco Zabel and freshman Julia Ludwig, picked up sixth-place medals, going 5-2 on the weekend to pick up eight team points.

Freshman Julia Ludwig (left) and Coco Zabel won five matches at state and picked up sixth-place medals.

The Trevs second singles entry Elizabeth Dabiza picked up a victory in the backdraw to earn her team a point.

Morse-Karzen said this was the right team to break the program’s 19-year championship draught.

“We kind of felt from the beginning of the season that we had a special group,” he said. “Just from a team camaraderie standpoint. They all got along, we all helped each other, they all worked well, we knew we had some talent, and people got better throughout the year.”

joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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