By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
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When: 2 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday.
Where: Finals at Hersey; No. 1 singles at Hersey and Prospect; No. 2 singles at Fremd and Palatine; No. 1 doubles at Buffalo Grove; No. 2 doubles: at Rolling Meadows
2010 team champion: Hinsdale Central
2010 No 1 singles champion: Tim Kopinski (Stagg)
2010 No. 1 doubles champion: Dan Ballantine-Ian Tesmond (Hinsdale Central).
Opening Volley: Talk to any player or coach, and they all say the same -- the 32 is a mini-state tournament -- and why not? Nearly every high profile player and team is here, including Belleville West and Edwardsville, who give the tennis faithful its first look at these perennial downstate powers up close. Because of the dreadful spring weather all have endured in the first half of the season, this weekend may provide more matches than many have played for keeps (thus) far -- while also giving the best of the best a chance to measure themselves against others.
"Ross and I are really excited for this weekend, as it kind of signals the start of the final stretch of the season, and for both of us, we're just going to go out there and let (it) loose, have fun playing, and see where we're at when it's all over on Saturday," said Stevenson senior David Packowitz, who along with his long-time partner Ross Putterman, were anointed the top seed at No. 1 doubles, and the team everyone will be chasing.
This mega tournament is also usually one of the last proving grounds for players looking to take a foot-hold in the lineup, while many coaching staffs use the '32' to test the waters with a new doubles team here and there, with an eye on a potential lineup switch to help improve the chances of others to advance when the sectional tournament rolls in late May.
New Trier, which won the team title last weekend at Hinsdale Central, arrives here with a brand new look at both Nos. 1 and 2 doubles, as head coach Tad Eckert still searches for what he hopes will be an unbeatable starting lineup when the postseason begins.
Singles top eight: Robert Stineman (New Trier), Jason Brown (Deerfield), Tim Kopinski (Stagg), Sammy Bloom (Hinsdale Central), Ben Quazzo (Latin), Josh Cogan (Batavia), Gordon Zhang (Naperville North), Jake Wilson (OPRF). The Stanford-bound Stineman was dominant last weekend at Hinsdale Central to help solidfy his No. 1 spot here, but results at that tournament had a profound effect on the rest of the next three seeds.
2010 state runner-up Tim Kopinski's loss to Central's Rafe Mosetick (the top seed at No. 2 singles) in the early rounds at Hinsdale, helped push Brown from Deerfield closer to the top, despite a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to Stineman in the semifinals. Two potential matches to watch could occur in the quarters when Kopinski meets Batavia star Josh Cogan, while Bloom takes on Naperville North's Gordan Zhang on the bottom half of the bracket at the same time. "The top half of this bracket is very tough with Stineman, Kopinski, Cogan and Quazzo, among others all there, but I feel the seeding process was very accurate, and it just worked out that the Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 6 seeds are all there," offered Deerfield coach Josh Leighton.
Doubles top eight: Stevenson (Putterman-Packowitz), Highland Park (Tyler Manci-Jordan Hainsfurther), OPRF (Devon Jones-Luke Trinka), Lyons Township (Jake Elliot-Danny Schuster), Belleville West (Scott Segobiano-James Stathis), Deerfield (Ben Shklyar-Alec Siegel), Hinsdale Central (Pete Heneghan-Alex Hagermoser), New Trier (Aaron Hiltzik-Drew Campbell). The graduation of 2-time state champions from Hinsdale Central (Ballantine-Tesmond) has left the field wide open to nearly a dozen hopefuls which can all claim to have an equal chance at the top prize tomorrow afternoon at Hersey. Putterman-Packowitz, who were back-to-back state runners-up, appear to have a slight edge over the others, but Highland Park coach Steve Rudman, who has guided two doubles teams to state titles, and another two to second-place finishes since 2004, sees it this way. "There's plenty of good teams, and plenty of potential upsets, because it's doubles, and you never know what's going to happen." The Patriots could see 5-9 Deerfield Saturday morning, while the 3-4 seed (OPRF) is on course to play New Trier, which earned a 5-9 seed despite not having a record together as of yet. Unfortunately, Belleville West and Edwardsville (Leskera-Randall) are destined to meet in the second round and all bets are off between these two.
Local flavor: Area doubles teams fared well at both singles and doubles, with 5 clubs earning top 16 seeds at doubles, led by Warren's No. 1 team of Nikola Trukov and Eric Seiler, who garnered a 5-9 seed. The undefeated pair (through Tuesday) are on a collision course to meet another 5-9 seed (Hinsdale Central, Heneghan-Hagermoser) in the second round today. Surprising Buffalo Grove (Max Beylis-Ari Kazan) are a 9-16, while MSL rivals Fremd (Nick Makowiecki-Maciej Niemczyk), Barrington (George Coll- Ben Nuckles) and Prospect (Matt Werderitch-Mike Hamman) all joined the Bison pair at 9-16. "This is a great opportunity for my guys, and I know they'll be looking forward to playing some of the best in the state during the next two days," said Bison coach Kevin Schrammel. Over at singles, Fremd senior Matt Burkhardt is one of three in the top 16 from the area in additon to Bush, who will face Stineman in the second round. With a first-round victory, Burkhardt will meet Princeton-bound, and 3-time state qualifier Quazzo from Latin. Warren sophomore Kristiyan Trukov, a 9-16 seed, is on the top half of the bracket, and will be one victory away from facing Cogan, who went 5-2 at the state tournament last spring.
Team race: When a team can rearrange its starting lineup one week after winning the prestigious Hinsdale Central Invite with a singles player such as Arthur Ozga, who, by the way, beat the Trevians' top two (Stineman and Jared Hiltzik in super tie-breakers early on, then guess who is the favorite to win it all? New Trier, which finished 12 points behind Central last year here, then later edged the field to capture the team state title, likely has too much firepower for the field, however, Oak Park-River Forest and Deerfield might have something to say about it before it's all over.
Lowdown: In four weeks the state tournament will commence at six of these area venues, so the race officially begins Friday. Weather permitting, the front draw will play two complete rounds, while the back-draw could play up to three rounds before the day is over. In addition to individual champions crowned at Nos. 1 and 2 singles and doubles, the "32" will also celebrate consolation champions at that same flights to give many players and teams the opportunity to compete in up to five matches over the two days of play.