MORE THAN FAIR EX­CHANGE

Crown Point’s Wen, El­ston sweep P-T ten­nis awards

Post-Tribune - - Front Page - BY MICHAEL OSIPOFF 713-2485 or [email protected] Twit­ter: @MichaelOsipoff

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.”

| MICHAEL OSIPOFF/FOR SUN-TIMES ME­DIA

Qing Wen (left) and coach Brian El­ston

| GUY RHODES/FOR SUN-TIMES ME­DIA

Coach Brian El­ston talks be­tween sets with Abby Kvachkoff (right) on May 31 at semis­tate against Cul­ver at Crown Point High School.

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