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Neuqua Valley wins section championship

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Meera Baid made a light fist pump and shouted to herself “this is mine.”

Finally it is.

Baid, three times third on the sections, topped her high school career on Saturday.

The Metea Valley senior defeated Neuqua Valley sophomore Emily Chiou for the third time this season, this time 6-4, 6-1, to win the singles championship in the Class 2A West Aurora Sectional which closed indoors at Vaughan Athletic Center.

Baid (18-1), who won all four section duels in straight sets, defeated Alex Klein van Batavia 6-1, 6-0 in the semi-final earlier on Saturday. She won’t be getting a fourth trip to mention this year as the IHSA postseason only runs through sectionals, but seemed perfectly pleased.

“It’s my last game of tennis in high school, so it meant a lot,” said Baid. “I am grateful that sections have happened. I did not expect the season to go that far.”

After a back-and-forth first set with Chiou, Baid dominated the second and won the first five games.

“Emily is very consistent, a smart player. It was definitely a tough game, but I’m glad I got through it,” said Baid. “She clearly played quite well and we had close matches. This time I felt my nerves working, I pushed the ball, but the second set I started to hit him more.”

Neuqua Valley, which won the DuPage Valley Conference championship last week, added its sixth team title in seven years on Saturday. The Wildcats had 27 points in second place at Batavia and Naperville North’s 18.

No shortage of drama in the doubles final, the last game to end. Undefeated and best seeded Tiffany Zhang and Irene Zhang from Naperville North outlast DVC rivals Sofia Ramos and Abigail Allen from Neuqua 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) to win their second consecutive sectional championship .

The Zhangs, both seniors but unrelated, made it to the top eight in the state last year after qualifying for state doubles alternately as freshmen and sophomores with the same doubles partner.

The two girls looked cool as cucumbers during Saturday’s game, but admitted feeling the pressure.

“I felt like it wasn’t that bad at first, but as we got deeper and deeper into the game it got more and more stressful,” said Tiffany Zhang. “It’s pretty cool to do this again.”

The Naperville North pair beat their Neuqua Valley counterparts for the third time this season, all three close matches, the last two three setters. They overcame the raw strength and emotion that Ramos and Allen bring to court.

“They are powerful and Sofia has a great presence on the field,” said Irene Zhang. “She’s very intimidating.”

Batavia, which enjoyed an exciting season, had a difficult last day by settling for fourth place in singles and doubles.

In singles, Klein (18-9) was defeated by Oswego East senior Makayla Buenafe 7-5, 6-3 in third place. In the doubles in third place, Hannah Kestenberg and Emiley Piao from Neuqua Valley defeated juniors Leah Puttin and Bella Lins (22-4) from Batavia (22-4) 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (8- 6).

“It stinks,” said Lins. “The same thing happened at the conference. We lost in a third set tiebreaker. I think it’s something we need to work on, which is getting up in tiebreakers.”

Still, the Bulldogs had a lot to be proud of.

Batavia closed the regular season with a 21-0 dual meet record and was repeated as DuKane Conference champion.

“It was pretty good because a lot of people didn’t think we would be that good because we lost a lot of really good seniors,” said Puttin, who qualified for state as a sophomore under then-senior Maddie Durso. “The new people coming in really stepped up. We had great team chemistry all year round.”



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