MORE THAN FAIR EXCHANGE
Crown Point’s Wen, Elston sweep P-T tennis awards
Crown Point’s Qing Wen, a Chinese exchange student, named Post-Tribune 2014 Girls Tennis Player of the Year; her coach gets top honors, too.
CROWN POINT — Before making the decision to adjust the lineup, Crown Point coach Brian Elston lost sleep. After making the decision, he lost sleep.
But all in all, it pretty much was a dream season for the Bulldogs.
They won their first regional title since 2005, edging Munster in a nailbiting championship match, after having beaten the Mustangs in the regular season for the first time since ’05. They extended their sectional title streak to 20, avenging a regular-season loss to Kankakee Valley — the primary target of their lineup change — in the final. They also won the Duneland Conference for the first time since 2005.
A semistate loss to Culver Academies in what proved to be a winnable match denied Crown Point its first title at that level, perhaps the only downer for the Bulldogs. Not that Elston was complaining.
“You always have thoughts in the back of your mind, but I never thought of this going into the season,” said Elston, the 2014 Post-Tribune Girls Tennis Coach of the Year. “I knew we had a good team, we had a good foreign exchange student (Qing Wen, who made the individual state semifinals), we had five people back (with four in this season’s lineup, as one returnee was displaced). So I knew we had a good chance of being very good, but nothing like this.”
Crown Point showed its potential with a stunning 5-0 season-opening win against Munster, albeit a shorthanded Mustangs team. The Bulldogs proceeded to go undefeated until a 3-2 loss to Kankakee Valley on May 7, a defeat that set the wheels in motion for their lineup change.
Elston tinkered for the next two weeks, ahead of the start of the postseason. In the end, Abby Kvachkoff — a singles player each of her first three seasons — moved from No. 1 doubles to No. 2 singles, Olivia Elston from No. 2 doubles to No. 1 doubles, and April Przyborski from No. 2 singles to No. 2 doubles.
And in a sectional final, Crown Point beat Kankakee Valley 5-0.
“Obviously we struggled against KV the first time we played them,” Brian Elston said. “Could we have beaten them the second time with the same lineup? Who knows. I wanted to tweak it a little bit.”
In a regional final, Crown Point topped a full-strength Munster 3-2, taking two three-set matches. The Bulldogs then dropped a 3-2 decision to Culver in a semistate match, losing two three-set matches.
“There have been moments where I’ve thought, wow, we had a great season,” said Elston, whose team’s only other loss came to South Bend St. Joseph, 3-2 on May 17. “The worst thing, we had two days to savor the win against Munster — and everyone knows Munster is the team in the area — before playing Culver. So we go from the highest of emotions to the bottom-most of our emotions losing a heartbreaker to Culver, and you’re always thinking about that last match.
“But now you get a chance to look back, and we’re competing at all five positions against Culver, and I never would’ve thought we’d be at the semistate and be competing and actually have a chance to win the semistate. So you’re really proud of what you’ve done with the team, really proud of what the girls have done, all the hard work they put in.”
Wen appreciated what Elston did in her year at Crown Point.
“He told me a lot about the strategies, all the players I was going to meet, and he encouraged me a lot during the match so I could get my head into the match and not get distracted,” she said. “He’s a great coach — he is, he seriously is. And a great teacher, how much he knows about biology. I have to thank him.”
Qing Wen (left) and coach Brian Elston
Coach Brian Elston talks between sets with Abby Kvachkoff (right) on May 31 at semistate against Culver at Crown Point High School.