By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
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When: 10 a.m. today through Saturday
Where: Hersey is host site. First two days at various Mid-Suburban League sites and Saturday's championship rounds at 9 a.m. at Hersey.
Top seeds (in order)
Singles -- Robert Stineman (New Trier, 33-0, defending state champion), Jared Hiltzik (New Trier, 28-3, Deerfield Invite champion), Jason Brown (Deerfield, 25-5, 2010 third-place state medalist), Tim Kopinski (Stagg, 25-2, 2010 state runner-up), Josh Cogan (Batavia, 21-2, two-time state qualifier), Ben Quazzo (Chicago Latin, 24-3, four time state qualifier), Rafe Mosetick (Hinsdale Central, 24-3, two-time state qualifier), Sam Bloom (19-9, Hinsdale Central, two-time state qualifier).
Doubles -- Stevenson (David Packowitz-Ross Putterman, 27-0, two-time state runners-up, NSC, sectional champs), Lyons Township (Jake Elliott-Danny Schuster, 15-3, Hinsdale Central Invite champions), Oak Park-River Forest (Devin Jones-Luke Trinka, 20-2, two-time state qualifiers), New Trier (Drew Campbell-Thomas Fawcett, 7-0), Deerfield (Ben Shklyar-Alec Siegel, 14-4, Deerfield Invite runners-up), Highland Park (Tyler Manci-Zack Brint, 7-1, two-time state qualifiers), Highland Park (David Zak-Jason Hainsfurther, 6-3, two-time state qualifiers), New Trier (Nate Jacobsen-Rob Jacobsen, 16-4).
View from the top: Stevenson's Packowitz and Putterman have enjoyed an extraordinary season and their boundless enthusiasm and energy for the sport shows through in the way they carry themselves on and off the court. Just as impressive as their all-out pursuit of victory, is the way each supports their mates, and how important it is for the Patriots to succeed. With that said, the senior pair must now turn its focus to the task ahead, and how to win seven consecutive matches this weekend in order to lift the biggest prize of them all. "I cannot wait for this tournament to begin," said Putterman on Tuesday afternoon. "We knew we would be the top seed, but we also know we need to (just) play our game, get back to the basics, and try to put our opponents away when the opportunity is there for us." The No. 1 team hasn't allowed a single opponent to take a set off of them, including No. 2 (Lyons Township) whom they defeated 6-4, 6-3 in the Pitchford finals. "We've been waiting for (this) ever since the start of the season, and if we can win it all this weekend, it will like getting a 2,000-pound weight off of our shoulders after two second-place finishes, and our year away last season," offered Packowitz.
Singles scene: The Stanford-bound Stineman is the clear favorite to repeat, after taking on every contender, and sending them away in defeat this spring, and is on course to win a fourth state medals, after taking third his rookie season at doubles with Brantner Jones and sixth his sophomore year at singles. "Ultimately, everyone was probably hoping not to draw (Robert) anywhere in their side of the bracket (and likely Packowitz-Putterman also) -- but there's no denying he's the one to beat, and it's going to take a real strong effort to do so," says New Trier coach Tad Eckert, who has watched the state's best roar into the tournament with a 60-1 record. In the ultimate case of deja vu all over again, Stineman will face the exact same cast he did at the Pitchford en route to his crown, beginning with Jeremy Bush (Stevenson) on Friday, then Quazzo (round of 16) and Kopinski in the quarters. Gordon Zhang (Naperville North, 23-3) is a 9-16 seed also on this side of the bracket, as is 5-8 seed Mosetick. Stineman's teammate (Hiltzik) may have a slightly easier road to the final, but the junior will likely face a bulldog in 9-16 Jake Wilson (OPRF, 23-10), who will be fighting for points for the Huskies in their race for a top-three finish, then 5-8 (Cogan) in the quarters, before a potential semifinal encounter with 3-4 Brown of Deerfield.
Double team: Some surprises here and there when the tournament committee made the newly formed New Trier team of (Campbell-Fawcett) a 3-4 seed despite just 7 matches, while a late-season switch of partners at Highland Park still was able to give the Giants a pair of 5-8 seeds. No doubt the fact that each HP team has a 2010 state runner-up (Brint and Zak) alongside a new teammate, but the strength of schedule for both teams, and the success of every player over the past two seasons justifies their lofty status. After struggling at the Pitchford, both teams from OPRF can be a dangerous lot for opponents, just as their teammate (Wilson) can be with so much at stake for the Huskies. Their 3-4 (Jones-Trinka) lost to Barrington's No. 1 (Ben Nuckles-George Coll) in 3 sets at the Hinsdale Central Invite, and to No. 2 Lyons on that same day, also in 3 sets. Another team to be wary of has to be Belleville West (Scott Segobiano-James Stathis), which is a 9-16 seed, thanks in part to its early straight-set defeat to Lyons in the third round of the Pitchford. This team nearly won 40 matches last spring, and arrives here 25-2.
Singles -- 9-16 seed Jeremy Bush (Stevenson, 9-16 seed, NSC, sectional champ, two-time state qualifier, 23-4). 17-32 seed Mitch Granger (Grayslake Central, FVC, sectional champ, two-time state qualifier, 33-1). Others are Isriz Balase (Schaumburg, three-time state qualifier, 27-9), Matt Burkhardt (Fremd, MSL champ, 26-6), Nate Campanile (Grayslake North, two-time state qualifier, 20-7), Chris Federighi (Cary-Grove, FVC champ, four-time state qualifier, 30-3), Ismail Kadyrov (Vernon Hills, 21-5), Brian Kim (Stevenson, 22-9), Kristiyan Trukov (Warren, two-time state qualifier, 20-7), Wesley Stoller (Warren, 26-6).
The sophomore Bush went 4-2 in his first state appearance last spring, and will look to stay in the front draw on Friday after a successful result over his likely third-round match (today) with 17-32 seed Joey Leto (Downers Grove North, 36-5) at host Hersey in Arlington Heights. Granger appears to have a more difficult task ahead of him if and when the Central senior faces 5-8 seed Bloom of Hinsdale Central in his third and final match of the day at Hoffman Estates. Seven of Bloom's losses have come at the hands of Stineman, Brown and Kopinski.
Doubles -- 9-16 seeds Barrington (Ben Nuckles-George Coll, MSL, sectional champs, 21-5), Fremd (Nick-Makowiecki-Maciej Niemcyzk, 14-3), Warren (Nikola Trukov-Eric Seiler, 36-5, two-time state qualifiers). 17-32 seeds Barrington (Ben Adams-Greg Baker, 20-6), Stevenson (Ryan Buxbaum-Andrew Komarov, 21-6). Others are Conant (Takuma Ito-Peter Itskovich, 2-2), Fremd (Erik Rosencrans-Joe Cantieri, 12-5), Grant (Nick Battis-Dan Starkey, 18-6).
Nuckles and Coll have gone 11-1 since May 1, that loss coming at the hands of No. 2 Lyons in a super tie-break (10-7). And their victory over the aforementioned OPRF team and three-set loss to Belleville West shows the duo can play with the best. "Those (two) need to come out and be ready to play their best tennis of the year, because if they do, they can have themselves a really long, and successful run in this tournament," says Barrington coach John Roncone. The Broncos' open at home, and could face 17-32 Downers Grove South (Cody Freischlag-Connor Harmon, 31-9) in the third round today. Warren's record setting team of Trukov-Seiler have an excellent opportunity to stay in the front draw into Friday, where they'll likely meet 5-8 Manci and Brint. The other 9-16 area team, Fremd (Makowieck-Niemcyk), is on the bottom half of the bracket, and in a quadrant with 3-4 (OPRF) and 5-8 New Trier (Jacobsen-Jacobsen) and could see the Huskies (Jones-Trinka) Friday morning if it can go 3-0 on its own courts.
New Trier won the three biggest events of the spring, yet never with the same lineup, or with anything close to the the group in which coach Tad Eckert has in place this weekend. Only Stineman, Campbell and Fawcett are here this weekend from the team which won the prestigious Pitchford -- but what the Trevians do have here is perhaps the best 1-2 punch at singles in Stineman and Hiltzik. If the duo survives the field and play each other in the finals on Saturday, the defending champs will already have tallied 28 points (combined) which is more points than any other team scored here last season, except for the Trevians and runner-up Hinsdale Central.
There will be a spirited battle for team hardware after the favored Trevians, with North Suburban Conference champ Stevenson right there in the mix, along with Hinsdale Central, Oak Park-River Forest and Deerfield, All four clubs have a full complement of entrants, with many capable of staying alive in the front draw on Thursday, which is a guaranteed 6 points each (2 points per win) -- then later in the backdraw, where staying alive means precious points to the team scorebook. The challenge begins in earnest today for the Patriots and coach Tom Stanhope, who would guide his lads to a fifth-place finish last season. "We completed the first step of getting everyone (in) now the next step is for all of our guys to play hard, and (to) put all of their effort into (their) play until the last point of the tournament," said Stanhope. "We all know the importance of the backdraw, and what it means to the team in the end -- and (that) is certainly not lost on any of our guys."