Serving their way to state

Doubles duo dominates sectional championship


courtesy: Kristine Falkstrom

Seniors Marie Kapelevich and Karina Falkstrom show off their Sectional win swag.

Despite what seemed like insurmountable odds, a Carmel girls tennis duo is heading into a tough state competition tomorrow with optimism and one goal in mind: to bring home the school’s first state double’s team championship trophy.

While it takes most pairs teams years to achieve a champion-level groove, seniors Karina Falkstrom and Marie Kapelevich only started playing together this year and only in select non-conference and tournament matches. But the lack of total playing time doesn’t seem to bother either of the girls.

“I feel like we communicate well, are positive, and motivate each other,” Kapelevich said. “This gives us an advantage in every match because our mentality is already better than our opponents. Despite not playing every match together, it never affected our game.”

They have the numbers to back that up. The two finished the regular season 22-1, with their only loss coming in a nail-biter to Glenbrook North, who took third at the state tournament last year. The girls battled all the way, but ultimately lost the third set tiebreaker.

I feel like we communicate well are positive, and motivate each other.”

— Marie Kapelevich

The new partnership wasn’t their only obstacle. A reshuffling of tennis divisions by the state’s high school athletic governing body, Illinois High School Association, pitted Carmel against new opponents.

This year, they (IHSA) switched girl’s tennis into 2 divisions instead of everyone being in one, and Carmel was moved with all of the bigger schools with usually better teams,” Falkstrom said.

At the Class 2A sectional last weekend at Cary-Grove High School, the two girls faced four sectional opponents that they hadn’t played during the regular season. The girls were nervous, but a high seed helped them relax a bit.

“Being seeded first was a confidence booster and definitely motivated us to live up to that seed,” Falkstrom said.

During that regional competition, the duo performed at a nearly-unheard-of level losing only a combined six games in their four matches in the tougher of two sectional tournaments. The team is riding a wave of confidence heading into this weekend’s tournament.

“Based on our results, I believe that we will make it to Saturday, the final day (of the competition),” said Kapelevich.

This winning attitude stems back to the girls’ sophomore year when they watched teammate Brienne Minor dominate the state singles tournament on her way to the Carmel’s first tennis crown in school history.

“Bri was an inspiration for me,” said Kapelevich, “the model of what a tennis player I would like to become. Because she won, I felt that we had to keep a reputation.”

Team pride and determination doesn’t mean that this formidable team is cocky that they will bring home the school’s first state doubles win. They’re just optimistic as they head to Fremd High School in Palatine for their first match tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.

“We have to take it one match at a time,” Falkstrom said, “and focus on moving forward each day.”