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Sports

Girls Tennis: Hinsdale Central sophomore Nicole Hu 'stays in the moment,' repeats as sectional champ

Red Devils take team title

Nicole Hu of Hinsdale Central goes after the ball during a match against Willowbrook's Molly Brennan during the 2A Lyons Township Sectional at Hinsdale Central High School on Oct. 16.
Nicole Hu of Hinsdale Central goes after the ball during a match against Willowbrook's Molly Brennan during the 2A Lyons Township Sectional at Hinsdale Central High School on Oct. 16.

LA GRANGE – Hinsdale Central sophomore Nicole Hu had a detailed scouting report on her opponent in Saturday’s Class 2A Lyons Sectional.

But Hu didn’t have to spend much time sorting over Hinsdale South junior Chase Metcalf’s playing tendencies.

Hu managed to put together her game plan for battling Metcalf through their long-time friendship. Hu and Metcalf have spent many hours together playing at the same venue –  Five Seasons Family Sports Club.

Still, Hu wondered how she would stack up against the taller, older and athletic Metcalf. Hu and Metcalf had never played each other on the high school level. Both entered Saturday's finals with just one loss all season.

“It was interesting to see how we were going to play, knowing that we are great friends,” Hu said. “Nicole is a great player, a lefty who has a great serve and ground strokes, so for me, it was important to stay consistent and stay focused. She can produce really good shots.”

Hu managed to stick to her game plan, overcoming a slight breeze and two brief rain sprinkles to record a 6-3, 6-2 win over Metcalf in the sectional final in Western Springs.

Hu said Metcalf represented a tough challenge due to her height, long arms and powerful stroke.

“I definitely had some ups and downs through both of my matches, but for me, it was being consistent with my mind and staying in the moment and not trying to think about the next point and just focus on the current point,” Hu said.

Hu, who placed fourth at state last season, captured her second straight sectional championship to lead the Red Devils to the team title. Thanks to two defaults in the doubles semifinals, the Red Devils cruised to the sectional team title.

The two defaults led to an all-Hinsdale Central doubles finals, with Sophia Kim and Prachi Shah defeating teammates Bridget Novatney and Zoe Limparis.

Hinsdale Central coach Shawna Zsinko said it was a unique ending to a unique season. Due to the Illinois High School Association limiting postseason play to sectionals over concerns of the coronavirus pandemic, the Red Devils won’t have a chance to compete for a state title after placing second last season.

“As kind of crazy as the season was, I think the girls rallied together and make it a great season and it was fun,” Zsinko said. “We did a good job where we didn’t have to shut down. To me, that was a win this season.

“Both our doubles (finals) teams are solid. We just let them play with no coaching. Nicole also played really well. It was cold and windy. She is a very disciplined player, keeps her calm on the court and is polished. She just sticks it out, even when momentum is not in her favor. That showed today.”

Metcalf, dressed in all back with white shoes, displayed her solid all-around game to go with a powerful serve to combat Hu’s precision shots, unflappable court presence and deadly two-handed backhand.

With Hu’s lead shrinking to 3-2 in the second set following a few hitting errors, Zsinko helped steady her all-stater with a brief visit.

“I said she’s doing great, just to keep it up,” Zsinko said. “I wanted to make sure she talked to someone.”

Hu added: “My coaches have been a great help for me. They helped me during every changeover. I just had to stay grounded in the match and work on closing it out.”

Hinsdale South coach Steve Snider said Metcalf made a big impact in her first season playing for the Hornets.

"Nicole is a really good player, super consistent and Chase raked up too many errors,” he said. “Chase played really well in her opening match and in finals. I thought she had some success coming to the net. That success kind of went away in the second set. It was a tough match with tough conditions.

“It was nice having Chase around, nice to have a true number one singles player because everyone else moves down the lineup and experiences success at those positions.”

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