BLOOMINGTON — When it comes to playing tennis in rather brisk fall weather, University High School freshman sensation McKenna Schaefbauer revealed a bit of focus and wisdom that transcends her tender years.
"Your hands get cold, but you kind of have to block it out and just focus on what you can control, which is not the weather," she said.
What Schaefbauer could control was both of her matches on Saturday. She stormed to a 6-0, 6-1 semifinal win over Washington's Sierra Sonnemaker before defeating U High teammate Abby Totten, 6-0, 6-0 in the title match to claim the singles crown in the Class 1A sectional tennis tournament at Bloomington High School.
Schaefbauer had only one point scored on her in four sectional matches in a meet that began indoors Friday. Her performance helped the Pioneers eke out a 25-24 win over Central Catholic to capture the title in the nine-team sectional.
"We've been working up to this the whole season and it feels good to finally get here and have a good result," Schaefbauer said. "I'm really excited about going to state and having my teammates like Abby there is really encouraging."
Schaefbauer is hoping for a low seed in next weekend's state meet which gets underway Thursday and runs through Saturday in Buffalo Grove. The top four finishers in singles and doubles earned state berths.
Also seeking prime consideration next weekend is the Central Catholic doubles team of Carley Hundman and Charlie Sartoris. The combo captured the sectional doubles crown with a 6-2, 7-6(5) win over a duo from Metamora.
Hundman and Sartoris grabbed their sectional title in their first season as a doubles team.
"It's really fun, being here for the first time together," said Sartoris, a senior. "Going to state, we just have to keep the same mentality in pushing forward, getting the ball across and just finishing the point."
Hundman, a junior, said her backcourt skills are a good complement to the strength and prowess Sartoris shows at the net.
After breezing through their first two matches Friday, Hundman and Sartoris scored a 6-3, 6-3 semifinal win over U High's Brooke Martin and Maggie Kraft to advance to face their foe from Metamora for the second time this week.
"We played them Tuesday and it was a really long match," Hundman said.
After cruising in the opening set Saturday, they fell behind in the second before rallying for the win.
Sartoris said that's not an unusual scenario for them.
"We find it hard to put the match away and make it hard on ourselves," she said. "But in the end, we always seem to be able to pull through and pull it out. It was a really good day today."
U High's Martin and Kraft bounced back from their semifinal loss to outlast Central Catholic's Isabelle Goodlick and Kristen Vose in the third-place match. Their 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win was pivotal in U High claiming the overall crown.
Washington's Sonnemaker rebounded from her singles semifinal loss to Schaefbauer by defeating Bloomington's Kelsie Ayers, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the third-place match.
With Ayers' fourth-place finish, she becomes the first Bloomington girls' tennis player to qualify for state since Lauren Yoder in the 2011-12 season.
"It's really amazing," said the diminutive Ayers, who added she stands around "5-foot-1-ish" and weighs a wisp over 100 pounds. "Beginning in my freshman year, we've said stuff about state, but it was kind of like a joke.
"Through the years I've improved and it's become a reality to get to and a dream come true."