Top teams: Benet, Downers Grove South, Hinsdale Central, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, Wheaton Warrenville South.
Top players: Benet: Andrew Caniglia, jr.; Bobby Martin, sr.; Matt Rurka, sr.; Downers Grove North: Tristan Burnham, jr.; Mantas Kisielius,so.; Downers Grove South: Jon Artus, jr.; Kiernan Cavanaugh, sr.; Cody Freischlag, jr.; Connor Harmon, jr.; Joey Leto, sr.; Tony Leto, fr.; Glenbard North: Matt Krzyzaniak, jr.; Glenbard South: Kevin Kron, sr.; Will Lear, sr.; Robert Pipal, sr.; Glenbard West: Steve Hanna, fr.; Matt Hirsh, sr.; Filip Pacyna, sr.; Hinsdale Central: Sam Bloom, sr.; Alex Hagermoser, jr.; Peter Heneghan, jr.; Griffin Johns, sr.; Martin Joyce, fr.; Hinsdale South: George Alex, sr.; Lake Park: Jon Housour, sr.; Taishi Minami, sr.; Metea Valley: Kyle Chin, fr.; Rishab Sharma, jr.; Montini: Oliver Jaimes, sr.; Naperville Central: Danny Albert, jr.; Wesley Lo, so.; Sid Swamy, jr.; Naperville North: Lee Charles, jr.; Steven Nguyen, jr.; Gordon Zhang, sr.; Neuqua Valley: Michael Baiocchi, sr.; Tim Worley, sr.; St. Francis: Matt Vale, sr.; Timothy Christian: Caleb Kumar, sr.; Waubonsie Valley: Abhi Singh,sr.; Wheaton Warrenville South: Quinn Jennings, sr.; Andy Page, fr.; Willowbrook: Chris Storck, jr. York: Jonathan Elsey, jr.; Kyle Kopinski, jr.
Outlook: Hinsdale Central finished fifth at state last year. With a good part of that team, including Bloom, who was sixth at state, returning, the Red Devils should be right up there as always competing for the state championship. Hagermoser and Heneghan finished in the top eight at doubles.
But there are at least two other teams that will be vying for top 10 positions. Neuqua Valley -- led by state qualifiers Baiocchi and Worley, who are battling for first singles -- has two fine doubles teams and a lot of depth. Coach Trudy Bennorth has the luxury to mix and match and come up with competitive top-level entries at every position. The Wildcats are going for their 11th straight conference title.
Downers Grove South coach Peter Freischlag calls this year's Mustangs, top to bottom the best he's ever had. They're deep, experienced and hungry to make a showing at the state tournament. Joey Leto is one of the best in the state and he's nationally ranked. Those top three teams all have a good chance of qualifying an entire team, two singles and two doubles, for state. "Our goal is to finish in the top five," Freischlag said. "This is a special group."
Naperville Central, led by a trio of returning state qualifiers in Albert, Lo and Swamy, is looking for its third straight DuPage Valley Conference title. The Redhawks, whose sophomore team also won the DVC title last year, will be trying to get a full team to state as well. The Albert-Lo doubles team will be among the best in the county. Naperville North, which features four-year team leader and all-state player Zhang, is poised to topple the Redhawks if some of their younger players develop as expected. The two Napervilles have gone down to the wire the past two years and that should happen again. Wheaton Warrenville South with freshman Page at first singles should have something to say about the final results as well. The Tigers have a stronger doubles lineup and better depth this year. After that it's a battle for fourth with Glenbard North, Wheaton North and Glenbard East looking to improve with young teams.
While Neuqua Valley is the heavy favorite in the Upstate Eight Conference, Waubonsie Valley, Metea Valley and Lake Park all have talent and will be scrambling for that No. 2 spot and dreaming perhaps of an upset over the Wildcats.
Hirsh anchors Glenbard West, which thanks to the presence of Hinsdale Central and other powers in the West Suburban Silver, has had to content themselves with going after second-to-fourth places. The same hold true for York and Downers Grove North. In the Gold it should be all Downers Grove South, but Hinsdale South is building around state-qualifier Alex. Timothy Christian and Glenbard South will be battling for Metro Suburban Conference supremacy, as St. Francis and Wheaton Academy go after champion Marmion in the Suburban Christian Conference.
Important dates: April 14: Naperville North Invitational; April 20: Downers Grove South Team Tennis Invite; April 24 Naperville Central at Wheaton Warrenville South; May 3: Naperville Central at Naperville North; May 4-5 Naper Valley Invite; May 5: Lange-Hildebrant Invitational at Lake Park; May 8 Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie Valley; May 11-12: conference tournaments; May 18-19: sectionals; May 24-26 state tournament.
-- Neil Shalin