Eric "the closer" Pohl finished off another championship for Fremd's boys tennis team.
Last month, the Vikings sophomore won the final match of the day to help his team outlast rival Barrington to clinch the Mid-Suburban West crown.
And on an otherwise dreary Saturday afternoon at Palatine, Pohl brightened the day for all of his teammates with a straight-set victory over Barrington freshman Ishaan Jaglan to clinch the MSL title for Fremd -- the second straight under coach Matt Duncan.
"Eric was my No. 1 go-to guy today," said Duncan, who, like his 'closer' wasn't aware that a victory from Jaglan would have elevated the Broncos past his own team. That would have completed a big run for coach John Roncone's team when it had seemed all had been lost.
"Entering this tournament, I kind of felt that both Fremd and Buffalo Grove had a little too much for us," said Roncone, "and knowing we couldn't possibly match all the points Fremd was gathering at singles, I figured we were in trouble. Then we swept at all four flights of doubles, and all of a sudden we were right back in it at the end. But Eric (Pohl) is a terrific player, and he did what he had to do for himself and his team."
The Vikings, who ran away from the field last year to win the league title, defended their crown this time in much different fashion. Fremd edged Barrington 51-49. MSL East champion Buffalo Grove (39), which at the start of the day was sandwiched between the MSL West powers on the tote board, watched its hopes slowly slip away with every result called into tournament central at Palatine.
"We had three head-to-head matches at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 dubs with Fremd in the semis, but we were able to get just one of those teams through, along with our No. 1 team which advanced into the finals, but couldn't finish things off with any titles," said Buffalo Grove coach Kevin Schrammel. "Both Fremd and Barrington had a little too much firepower for us in the end."
The Bison had a perfect 8-0 record in the league and earned a second consecutive division title. They retain plenty of hope in advance of the Stevenson sectional, which begins Friday afternoon at the Vernon Hills Athletic Complex.
Pohl's varsity season is over, as Fremd's top two singles players, Nick Mackowiecki and Maciej Niemcyzk, prepare for their run into the state tournament at singles. So Pohl (20-2) put everything he had into the match. He broke open a well-played, exciting second set against Jaglan by winning the final 3 games of the set after holding serve to put him up for good at 4-3.
"I didn't know my match had so much riding on it, but it's awesome that it meant so much, and that I was able to help my team win the tournament," said Pohl, who kept the ball in play during several contested long-ball rallies.
In a marathon eighth game, which went to deuce on 4 occasions, Pohl finally broke his opponent to take a 5-3 lead.
"(Jaglan) was a very good athlete, and he got to a lot of balls that others wouldn't, but I thought I handled the long rallies pretty well in our match," said Pohl, "and won the tough points when I had to."
Niemcyzk (23-2) cruised to a first-place medal at No. 2 singles, defeating Schaumburg captain Ben Brito 6-1, 6-1.
"Now it's all about getting ready for sectionals next weekend, and qualifying into the state tournament, and helping my team win the sectional championship," said Niemczyk, a junior who along with Mackowiecki advanced into the tournament last spring as a doubles team.
Makowiecki, a senior, ran into one of the best young players in the state in Vincent Lin (Schaumburg) in the championship at No. 1. The Saxons freshman impressed in a 6-1, 6-3 victory.
"I thought I covered the court really well and moved Nick around for the most part, and kept a high percentage of (my) first-ball returns back in play," said Lin, "but I have to admit that I got a little tight in that second set when he started to play better to make a run at me, forcing me to miss a few of the shots that I didn't in the first set."
Lin is likely to earn the No. 2 seed at the Schaumburg sectional next week behind Glenbrook South star Sam Hoogland.
"Vincent is a very good player who can take advantage of your mistakes really quickly, which is something that I wasn't able to do against him today," said Makowiecki (20-5) who recently commited to play at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., next fall.
Barrington's George Coll-Varun Parekh tandem made a big impression on the field at No. 1 doubles, after dusting off three opponents, including Vlad Zuperman-Ari Kazan (17-4) of Buffalo Grove, to win their first conference championship.
"It feels good to win the MSL," admitted Coll, who recently missed a week of play with a bum shoulder.
"I thought we played solid throughout," said Parekh, "but now we have to play even better when it starts for real at the (Schaumburg) sectional, where Glenbrook South, North, Barrington, Conant and us are all in the mix for a top-four finish."
Coll and Parekh began the Barrington dominance at doubles. Greg Baker-Akash Khurana followed suit at No. 2 with a 6-2, 6-1 defeat of the Bison senior duo of Steve Mazzoni-Nick Boustead (16-7). The Broncos No. 3 team of Will Herzog-HB Thompson was a winner, and Matt Lilien and Mike Swire won their second consecutive conference title at No. 4 doubles.
Conant's fourth-place finish was fueled by a third-place medal at first singles from Peter Itskovich (15-7), who defeated Prospect sophomore Carson Burke 6-0, 6-1, and its No. 1 team of Connor Sacks and Spencer Fang (14-5), who had the Zuperman-Kazan team down 3-0 in the third set, only to watch the lead vanish in a 6-3 loss to decide the set.
"(They) got away from what they were doing, and didn't play simple tennis, which (meant) just keeping the ball in play," said Conant coach Amar Patel, who believes his doubles team will vie strongly for one of the state qualifying spots at the Schaumburg sectional.