David Packowitz and Ross Putterman had held the dream ever since a fateful day in late May two years, ago when they were bridesmaids for a second consecutive year in the doubles final of the boys tennis state championships.
Saturday afternoon in Arlington Heights, the sensational tandem from Stevenson got to live their dream.
The Stevenson seniors defeated their opponent from New Trier in straight sets to set off a celebration just outside the winning courts at Hersey High School, where the two were surrounded by the very youngest to the oldest, all eager to embrace the champions.
The Patriots, who displayed a killer instinct all season, went for the jugular right from the beginning Saturday morning, when they crushed a 3-4 seed from Oak Park-River Forest 6-3, 6-3 before ending the hopes of a pesky, and clean-hitting Trevians team (Drew Campbell/Tom Fawcett) to win the final 6-2, 6-3.
New Trier, led by a magnificent singles effort by Robert Stineman, ran away from the field to win its second straight team title. A late rain shower forced the remaining few matches indoors in Northbrook, where second and third place was decided; Deerfield edged Oak Park-River Forest 35-32.
Packowitz/Putterman (35-0) did not want their high school careers defined by those back-to-back second-place finishes, to Ben Woldenberg and Sam Barnett of Highland Park in 2008, and Dan Ballantine and Ian Tesmond of Hinsdale Central in 2009. So they took command early this time.
"We did to our opponents what Ben and Sam did to us when we were young, inexperience skinny little freshmen," said Putterman, "and it was the only way to play today, because this is what we were focused on from the very first day of practice."
"We were in a bit of a cloud against Hinsdale Central, and we kind of laid an egg that day two years ago, but today, that big old monkey is finally off our back," said Packowitz.
Waiting nearly 70 minutes for an early morning rain to come and go and for the courts to be blown dry, the Patriots immediately went to work against OPRF. The Pats pair quickly found themselves leading 5-2 after a pair of service aces from Putterman helped lead the way to a 6-3 first set victory.
Luke Trinka and Devon Jones stayed close at 4-3, but Putterman held serve before the Pats broke Trinka for the match in a 63-minute affair.
"Trinka kind of surprised us, because we didn't expect him to be so deadly on his backhand returns, but once we solved that and stopped missing some easy closing shots, we were able to take control of the match to move on," said Packowitz, as he began the ritual of his post-match stretching routine before the final.
While Campbell-Fawcett (17-1) were putting away a stubborn team from Highland Park (Tyler Manci-Zach Brint) in 3 sets, their teammate Stineman (40-0) was on his way to his second straight singles title, and the first since Deerfield's Mike Morrison did so in 1986 to cap a run of four straight.
Prior to that, Dan Weiss (1980, 1981) at Glenbrook North, and Matt Horwitch (1976, 1977) from Highland Park were the last two do so.
"I cannot even tell you what it means to join a select group like the one that Mike Morrison is a member of, and how great it feels to be a part of a team which also has won two straight team titles -- it's almost too good to be true," said Stineman, who added a touch of class to the tournament and the singles field while subduing the competition with far too many weapons for any of his opponents, including teammate Jared Hiltzik, whom he defeated in the final 6-2, 6-2.
"We've been fortunate to have a great player and leader in Robert, but I cannot forget what Jared has meant to the team this season, and how important he will be to us next year when he takes over as our No. 1 when Robert heads off to Stanford," said New Trier coach Tad Eckert.
When the appropirate recovery time for the New Trier club was over, the Patriots opened the finals by holding serve, as did Fawcett.
With Packowitz on serve and trailing 30-40, it appeared Putterman had been handcuffed on a return, only to somehow turn his racquet inside-out and hitting a winner, delighting Packowitz.
Later, Putterman took a ball that seemed headed between his legs for a New trier point -- and somehow turned it around the other way to give the Pats the set.
"That was a big shot for the set," said Packowitz.
Campbell painted the line as the Trevians broke Putterman to open the second set, but the Patriots broke back and increase their lead to 2-1 with Packowitz on serve.
The see-saw set continued when Campbell held, as did Putterman, but a double-fault by Fawcett and a couple of great points turned the set in the favor of Stevenson at 3-2.
"New Trier wouldn't go away in that second set, and we probably played a little tight at times in that set," said Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope, "but just as they have all season long, and especially in this tournament, once David and Ross get on a roll it just snowballs, and then the match is over."
At 4-3 and New Trier serving, an exciting 10-ball rally gave the gallery plenty to cheer about with some real doubles play, most of it close to the net with quick reaction returns. A double fault by Campbell and a forehand winner from Packowitz drewing the Pats closer to a win at 5-3.
With the Patriots' fans sensing victory, Putterman got his team ahead at 30-love, then 40-15.
And overhead missile from the 6-foot-3 Putterman ended the match, and sent the rackets of both into the air.
"It was a long wait for those two, but it was well worth it," said Stanhope. "We're obviously going to miss them and their talent as players next year, but we will also have a difficult time replacing the great character and hard work that each brought to our program, as well as just having two great kids like them around all of the time."
Stevenson sophomore Jeremy Bush concluded a wonderful state tournament with a top-eight finish after a win and a loss (to Ben Quazzo in three sets) earned the Patriots 11 points over his three days to help his club to fourth place overall with 32 points, 2 more than fifth-place Hinsdale Central.
The St. Charles North doubles team of John Mittvick and Danny Oakes were eliminated in the consolation quarterfinals (6-3, 1-6, 6-4) by 9-16 seed Eric Bruynseels-Tim McAdam of Oak Park-River Forest to end the Stars' splendid run in the backdraw.
Deerfield junior Jason Brown (32-6) earned his second straight third-place medal.
In doubles, Manci and Brint defeated Trinka and Jones (3-6, 6-2, 6-3) to capture third-place honors.
Later, after chased indoors at the Northshore Racquet Club, Ben Quazzo of Chicago Latin defeated Sam Bloom (Hinsdale Central) in the fifth place match, while Nate and Rob Jacobson of New Trier outlasted Bruynseels-McAdam 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to earn fifth place in doubles.