Schaumburg freshman Vincent Lin booked his place in the upcoming boys tennis state tournament by delivering a 3-set victory over Glenbrook South sophomore Ben Hoogland 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 to capture the Schaumburg sectional singles title Saturday.
Lin also helped lead his team to an impressive third-place finish in the team race behind perenial powers Glenbrook South and North.
The Titans, behind the superb doubles team of Michael Sellitto and Michael Levin and its No. 2 team of Luke McCanna and Will Lyon, outscored its Central Suburba League rival Glenbrook North 25-19 to win the team battle. The Saxons finished with 18 points, 4 more than Conant.
Barrington, which qualified its No. 1 doubles team (George Coll-Varun Parekh), finished fifth overall with 12 overall points.
"It feels pretty good to be a sectional champ," said Lin. "This was a big match for me, and after that first set, I really felt I got back into a rhythm and took control of the match."
Hoogland was in command early and easily won the first set, but the Saxons' cool and composed rookie fought back, winning the next 6 games before closing out his club partner 6-3 to seal the deal.
"I tried to overpower (him) and in that third set, I sensed he was tiring," said Lin. "So I moved him around as much as I could, and the heat, and his previous third-set match in the semifinals helped me put him away."
The marathon victory over Hoogland marked only the third time this season Lin had dropped a set. The other instances came against 2011 state qualifiers Matt Hirsch (Glenbard West) and Jasper Koenen of St. Charles East. But the victory Saturday clearly is the biggest of Lin's young career.
"Those other wins over those two were big for Vincent, but this one today will hopefully turn some heads of the state seeding committee and help put his name out there when they put together the 64-man field," said Saxons coach Jason Campbell.
Hoogland was a state qualifier last spring and went 4-2 in his first appearance.
"Vincent hung in there today to get himself a win over a quality opponent, and in the end, he not only helped himself, but his team," Campbell said. "All of us are really excited about his championship and our third-place finish in the team race."
Conant's Peter Itskovich (17-9) will join teammates Spencer Fang and Connor Saks at the state tournament, which begins Thursday, after earning a fourth-place medal following a straight-set defeat to Glenbrook North frosh Will Sauser.
"Peter raised his level of play against Vincent to play his best tennis of the year, but it wasn't enough in his semifinal," said Conant coach Amar Patel, "but he didn't match that level when he met Sauser."
Conant's No. 1 doubles team had its moments against the top-seeded Titans, but as all but two of the opponents both Sellitto-Levin have faced this season, it just wasn't enough. Sellitto, now a four-time state qualifier, and his partner Levin, making his third trip to the tournament, earned a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Fang/Saks in the semis, and a 7-5, 6-2 win in the finals against Barrington.
"(Their) lack of experience with a big-time opponent like Sellitto-Levin really showed in that match, but the guys had a good game plan and their execution of that game plan went pretty well," said Patel. "But too many unforced errors and our inability to stay away from (Sellitto) ... that, and the combined power of those two guys was just too much for Spencer and Connor."
The Cougars duo later fell in straight sets to McCanna-Lyon (6-0, 6-2).
The day began well for the Broncos' Coll-Parekh (18-7), who defeated McCanna-Lyon 7-5, 6-2 before running into Sellitto/Levin.
"I thought we played much better than our semifinal match, but in that final with GBS we didn't control the net and didn't play the last shot as well as we could, and that was the difference in the final," said Coll, who is now a three-time state qualifier.
Parekh, who can now add a second state appearance to his resume, figures it was Sellitto who ultimately was the difference-maker.
"Sellitto had that nasty cross-court angled shot that was just killing us, but it's too bad I couldn't match George with my serves, because he was just amazing with that part of his game," said the junior, who is hoping for a 9-16 seed from the tournament committee.