The Hinsdale Central girls tennis team has won 20 IHSA State Finals since it inception

By Abbey Hayes

The Hinsdale Central High School girls tennis team won the IHSA State Finals. The Red Devils had a lot to prove as returning champs hoping to secure the win for the second year in a row. Shawna Zsinko has been the head coach at Hinsdale Central since 2017. Winning the state championship back-to-back is an impressive feat, and this is Zsinko’s third victory as head coach. She also led the Red Devils to win the IHSA State Finals in 2018 and 2021. Unfortunately, there was no state championship in 2020 due to the pandemic. The history of the Red Devils is quite impressive. The Hinsdale Central girls tennis team has won 20 IHSA State Finals since its inception. This makes Hinsdale Central one of the most decorated schools in its bracket. Hinsdale Central has a legacy to uphold, and Zsinko touched on that legacy when speaking about the Red Devils’ recent win.

When asked what motivates the team to do well Zsinko said, “Legacy.” Being on a winning team is exciting, but there’s also a pressure to follow in the footsteps of teams before them. Zsinko mentioned that the “history of doing well” motivates the team to show up and give it their all. Although legacy is a huge motivator, it’s not the only thing pushing these athletes to greatness. Zsinko said that internally the athletes must be motivated. She explained that tennis is primarily an individual sport. For many tennis athletes, high school tennis is their first experience on a team. Many have trained individually for years, but the excitement of being on the squad is also a huge motivator. The camaraderie helps pump up the team before competing. Every coach has a coaching style that contributes to their team’s success.

When asked to explain her coaching style Zsinko said that she’s positive. She also mentioned that not taking excuses is an important aspect of her coaching style. Lastly, Zsinko added that it’s important to “pump up the team” and encourages them to keep their eye on the prize. If one thing is true about Hinsdale Central, they keep their eye on the prize. Each season comes with a unique set of challenges. When asked about what issues the Red Devils faced this year, Zsinko had a few answers. One of the recurring challenges each season is choosing the right lineup. Zsinko explained that it can be challenging to choose which athletes play singles and doubles at the state finals. When it’s all said and done, there are two singles and two doubles teams selected. Another challenge is all the talent present at the state finals. The hope is that the other teams will not have their two doubles and two singles teams qualify. Having two singles and two doubles qualify is ideal, but it increases the competition when other schools also have four qualifying teams. Lastly, Zsinko said a big challenge is keeping the athletes healthy.

From illnesses to injuries, keeping athletes healthy is a priority. A few things happen leading up to the IHSA State Finals. The Wednesday before state, the athletes competing at state have one last practice. Then they ring the bell at Hinsdale Central. This is a tradition that started years ago. Every team at Hinsdale Central rings the bell before something big. For the girls tennis team, they ring the bell before the state finals. After ringing the bell, Zsinko and the six athletes competing at state go to Giordano’s in Willowbrook. They sit at this one table and enjoy each other’s company. This is a superstition the team upholds. Zsinko mentioned that one year they went to a different restaurant and didn’t have a great finish. Since then, they haven’t changed where they go. In fact, Zsinko said that she remembers going to that exact Giordano’s 20 years ago when she played tennis at Hinsdale Central. To end the night, the athletes get their nails done together. And then they’re off to the IHSA State Finals. The Hinsdale Central girls tennis team is an impressive group of young athletes. There are 22 athletes on the varsity tennis team. Six of those athletes get to compete at the IHSA State Finals. Zsinko explained, “I have so many great players, I end up choosing close to state based on rankings, records, and seeding.” Once the six athletes are chosen, they must each qualify at sectionals.

The six athletes that competed at the state finals this year include Prachi Shah, Sophia Kim, Bridget Novatney, Nicole Hu, Shannon Stover, and Abigail Gambla. The Red Devils had quite the fan section at the IHSA State Finals. Zsinko mentioned that supporters were there the whole time. Hinsdale Central had half the day off on Thursday and the whole day off on Friday, so there was no shortage of devotees during the three-day state final. On Thursday, with a score of 20 to 18, Hinsdale Central was down two points behind New Trier. Hinsdale Central took the lead on Friday with 29 points total. On Saturday, Hinsdale Central won the IHSA State Finals with a score of 32 points. There were also some impressive individual finishes by the athletes that competed at the IHSA State Finals. Sophia Kim took third place in singles, Bridget Novatney and Nicole Hu took third place in doubles, Shannon Stover and Abigail Gambla took fifth place in doubles, and Prachi Shah finished top 20 in singles. Congratulations to the Red Devils on yet another winning season.

Dalia Bajwa, Mia Batenic, Katie Brophy, Rachele Cameli, Abigail Gambla, Nicole Hu, Moira Hughes, Gia Kapur, Sophia Kim, Laima Marchertas, Kendall McCain, Sherine Nehme, Bridget Novatney,
Lauren Panveno, Asha Sarai, Prachi Shah, Sydney Shuster, Elizabeth Singer, Anjali Srinivasan, Shannon Stover, Shrija Sunkara, and Ava Virmani

*Photos courtesy by 726 Visuals and Burke Masters

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