ALGONQUIN – Top Jacobs doubles pair Haley Steinkamp and Kylie Skepnek never played together in their high school careers before this season.
But since teaming up, the longtime friends keep improving, and on Saturday, they topped off their season with a Fox Valley Conference championship.
The duo defeated Crystal Lake South’s Claire Atkinson and Julia Kopfman, 6-3, 6-4, to win the No. 1 doubles flight. They helped Jacobs win its fourth consecutive FVC tournament title.
In total, Jacobs won four of the tournament’s seven flights.
“This is probably our best performance in a year-end tournament that we’ve had,” Jacobs coach Jon Betts said. “Across the board, there wasn’t a single spot that didn’t play extremely well. In some real critical times, too, we had plenty of tight matches that could have gone either way.”
The Golden Eagles’ victory comes a week after securing the FVC regular season title by one point over South and Huntley. Betts called it “as tight a race as I can remember in the regular season.”
On Saturday, Jacobs’ 55 team points edged out second-place South (48 points) and third-place Cary-Grove (43).
After playing the early rounds indoors Friday at the Racket Club in Crystal Lake and Centegra Health Bridge in Huntley, the tournament moved outside for the Saturday morning finals.
Other than one short rain delay, the final round went off without a hitch.
“I had a tough time returning at the beginning because the wind was so strong,” Skepnek said. “But [we] got in the groove of things, and it went better.”
Skepnek was a state qualifier in doubles as a junior last season with a different playing partner. Steinkamp primarily played singles in previous seasons. She also qualified for state last year as a junior.
“I had a singles mindset my entire high school career,” Steinkamp said. “This year is my first year playing doubles with someone. So I was very internal. I’d kind of be like a brick wall when I was playing. Playing together this whole season, we’ve been able to work together and pull each other up.”
Jacobs’ No. 3 singles player Rebecca Mudge won her flight. Ramya Nissankula and Brianna Japkowski won at No. 2 doubles. Amber Seong and Paige Shiakallis won at No. 3 doubles.
For South, Lauren Schoen won the No. 2 singles flight. Atkinson and Kopfman finished runners-up in No. 1 doubles. The Gators also had a runner-up finish from Skylar Olsen at No.1 doubles, who lost to Cary-Grove’s Bethany Marshall, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
The Gators finished with a regular season dual match record of 18-1, with their only loss coming against Jacobs.
“We had a good tournament, and everybody that played [Saturday] placed in the top three,” Gators coach Don Nead said. “I’m proud of the girls.
“[Our] first doubles team was playing a very good team, and we knew they were a very good team. We knew it was going to be tough to beat them, and we gave it all we had.”