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updated: 3/28/2013 3:18 PM

Boys tennis: Scouting the Fox Valley

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  • Elgin's Eric Chai returns serve against St. Charles North during the Upstate Eight River Division tournament last season. Chai is a returning state qualifier.

      Elgin's Eric Chai returns serve against St. Charles North during the Upstate Eight River Division tournament last season. Chai is a returning state qualifier.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent

Bartlett Hawks

Coach: Kevin Ferry (1st season)

Top returning players: Senior Aaron Smedley (No. 1 singles), junior Ameya Shenoy (No. 2 singles), James Devereux

Key newcomer: Justin Howes (No. 1 doubles)

Outlook: Ferry is in his first season at Bartlett and sees a number of positives on the roster. Smedley is the team captain, while Shenoy moves from No. 1 doubles last year to the No. 2 singles slot. Devereux also has improved. "James is much improved in strength and experience," said Ferry. The coach feels Howes is up to the challenge of the No. 1 doubles position. "It's a tough assignment that he is eager to get to," said Ferry. The coach feels the future is bright for the program. "The boys have bought into the program," he said. "Our goal is to give the seniors a final season they deserve, get a state qualifier and set a foundation for the future," he said. "We will surprise people with our depth."

Cary-Grove Trojans

Coach: Amanda Schuetzle (3rd season)

2012 finish: 14-10, 4-2 (FVC)

Top returning players: Seniors Owen Russell (No. 1 singles), Chris Rozolis (No. 1 doubles), junior Kevin Maas (No. 3 singles)

Key newcomer: Sophomore Evan Jensen

Outlook: The Trojans are coming off a sixth-place showing in the FVC tournament a year ago. Russell is back at No. 1 singles where he took fourth in conference and finished with a 22-11 record. Maas was third in the conference last year and went 22-7. Rozolis, half of the No. 1 doubles team this year, had 15 wins last year. Cary-Grove lost only three starters from a year ago. "We have the returning players with some previous experience that will benefit us this season," said Schuetzle. "With more depth to draw from our returning seniors and new juniors, our goal is to focus on strengthening our doubles teams to boost our position in the FVC."

Crystal Lake South Gators

Coach: Don Nead

2012 finish: 3rd place Fox Valley Conference

Top returning players: Seniors Brandon Jarva, Austin Kill, Andy Koltun, Josh Ramos, junior Kyle Devlin

Outlook: The Gators have more than 50 boys out for the team this spring. "We're going to have some more competition to make the starting lineup," said Nead. "Hopefully some of our inexperienced players will gain experience, give us some more depth and make us better." Nead said a key to the team's improvement will be developing the doubles division. "We have to get doubles depth," he said. "We're trying different combinations eight now. If we can come up with some doubles teams I think we can be competitive." Jarva is a returning state qualifier from last year. Jarva, Kill, Koltun, Ramos and Devlin return with good experience from a year ago. "Those five players played quite a bit last year," said Nead.

Dundee-Crown Chargers

Coach: Harlan Miller (21st season)

2012 finish: 7-19, 2-11 FVC

Top returning players: Seniors Jose Mejia, Francisco Vargas, Frankie Bravo, Brandon Jensen, juniors Brad Spangenberg, Colin Stiefer, Jeremy Naber, sophomore Chad Wagner

Key newcomers: Juniors Thomas Emerson, Michael Sarrazine, Francisco Mejia, Angel Brito

Outlook: Spangenberg took second at the Elgin sectional last year and qualified for the state tournament. "We are relatively young this year having lost four seniors who played the top spots in doubles and singles so it will be a very challenging year," said Miller. The coach feels teams such as Crystal Lake South, Prairie Ridge and Jacobs will be tough in the Fox Valley Conference.

Elgin Academy Hilltoppers

Coach: Greg Repede (4th season)

2012 finish: 8-13, 1-4 (Independent School League)

Top returning players: Seniors Beck Blair, Colin Ward, Jonathan Oberdorf, Colt Kozal, junior Michael Palmer, sophomores Brian Tran, Tano Xayasarn

Key newcomers: Junior Jin Park, freshman Frankie Bisconti

Outlook: Kozal, Palmer, Oberdorf and Park will compete for the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions with the remaining two players competing at No. 1 doubles. Blair and Ward are the likely No. 2 doubles team, while a combination of Tran, Xayasarn and Bisconti will play No. 3 doubles. "We have veteran players, but no stars," said Repede. "We have a good-sized program (20 players) for a small school. Our guys work hard and enjoy playing. We will probably struggle in a very tough ISL conference (where Latin School and F.W. Parker are favorites), but could be over .500 against nonconference opponents."

Elgin Maroons

Coach: Larry DeHaan

2012 finish: 5th place UEC River, sectional champions

Top returning players: Seniors Abe Hong (No. 1 doubles), Eric Chai (No. 1 doubles), junior Reza Khan (No. 1 singles)

Key newcomers: Junior Mark Chounlakone, sophomore Josh Hegel (No. 2/3 singles), freshman Andy Chai (No. 2/3 singles)

Outlook: Elgin won 14 matches last year and a sectional championship. Eric Chai is back after qualifying for the state tournament last year. "We have six or seven guys returning," said DeHaan. "We were fairly young last year. It's exciting to coach these kids. They are fun to work with and are a bunch of learners who have fun and work hard. Elgin kids are great kids who put it on the line. These guys care about each other. Hopefully we'll put some more good results on the board."

Hampshire Whip-Purs

Coach: Jon Betts

2012 finish: 25-3, 10-3 FVC

Top returning players: Seniors Dylan Keeling, Joe Vietinghoff, juniors Elisha Hougland, Jake Dahlberg, Chad West, Vince Tolentino,

Key newcomers: Senior Nick Vaughn, juniors Josh Swetman, Xavier Higa

Outlook: The Whip-Purs are coming off a memorable 2012 season where they won 25 matches. Houghland went 31-5 last year, while Dahlberg was 26-10 and West was 21-9. Keeling and Vietinghoff each had 17 wins. "Many of our players recognized the hole left by last year's graduates and have been working hard since last season," said Betts. "To be competitive, we knew we would need to make great off-season gains. We hope to see that many of our players demonstrate significant improvement when we take the courts this season." Betts is impressed with the team's camaraderie. "Our team's greatest strength through the years has been our players' support for one another," he said. "They play for one another and push each other to work hard through the off-season. Recognizing their responsibility to their teammates has helped us compete against some of our area's top teams." Betts said a team goal is to again challenge for the Fox Division title. "We recognize we'll need a tremendous effort to have success against some of the strong teams we'll face," he said. "Having lost man of our great 2012 team to graduation, including a two-time state qualifier, we're entering 2013 with a lot of questions marks. We'll be looking for many veteran players to take a significant step up in level of competition, while relying on several players with little or no varsity experience to win key matches for us."

Huntley Red Raiders

Coach: Barry Wells

2012 finish: 9-11, 1-5 (FVC Valley)

Top returning players: Seniors Garrick McDaniel, Max Pilkerton, Marek Makowski, Aakash Maniar, Vince Kambitsis, juniors Connor Smith, Matt Frederick

Key newcomers: Sophomores Brendan Hagan, Josh Simons, freshman Jake Grabner

Outlook: Smith will be the team's No. 1 singles player this season. "Connor has been taking lessons and his game has improved a lot," said Wells. "I believe he will have a successful transition from No. 2 singles last year to No. 1 singles this year." Hagan, Simons and Grabner are possible varsity additions. "We have experienced seniors coming back and some promising young players who could make the starting lineup," said Wells.

Jacobs Golden Eagles

Coach: Jim Benson

2012 finish: 8-11, 3-3 FVC Valley Division

Top returning players: Seniors Brandon Sidor (No. 1 doubles), Kingsley Bernardo (No. 1 doubles), Kristian Bernardo (No. 2 doubles), Keegan Gaspari (No. 3 doubles), junior Kyle Powell (No. 3 doubles), sophomore Matt Toomire (No. 3 singles)

Key newcomers: Freshmen Kailash Panchapakesan (No. 1 singles), Kendrick Chong (No. 2 doubles), Riley Rowan (No. 2 singles)

Outlook: Jacobs is the team many are picking to be at the top of the FVC based on a combination of strong returning talent and the addition of key freshman players to the varsity. The Bernardo brothers are returning state qualifiers with 26 varsity wins between them. Sidor was 17-9 last year. Freshmen Panchapakesan and Rowan will occupy the top two singles positions, while Chong will fit in at No. 2 doubles. "These boys can hit and we are excited to see how we stack up against the conference, sectional and state," said Benson. "As a team we are looking to compete for the conference and sectional championship." Benson has been looking forward to this season for quite sometime. "I began coaching four years ago at the frosh-soph level when the current seniors were freshmen," he said. "These guys moved up with me their sophomore year to varsity and this is their season to prove themselves. They are an absolute great group of boys and have been working hard to make this year their best yet."

Larkin Royals

Coach: Kevin Schillerstrom

Top returning player: Senior Mitch Pepa (No. 1 singles)

Outlook: Larkin features plenty of newcomers on the roster this season. "We have newcomers this year who have never played and young players who are motivated to get better," said Schillerstrom. "We're looking forward to a building year at Larkin." Pepa is the team's top returning athlete and is currently playing No. 1 singles. Schillerstrom is looking to further expand the roster. "Myself and the JV coach are trying our best to get other athletes to come out for the team," he said.

South Elgin Storm

Coach: Brett Johnson (2nd season)

2012 finish: 27-10, 3-3 UEC Valley

Top returning players: Senior Francis Manzano (No. 1 doubles), Randy Felker (No. 2 singles), Signory Somsavath (No. 2 doubles), Jesse Benbrook (No. 2 doubles), Muhammad Zamir, Michael Lopez, Teddy Lazopoulos, juniors Andre Norasith (No. 1 singles), Aayush Patel (No. 1 doubles), John Ketdy

Key newcomers: Seniors Franco Sposito, Harrison LaGambina, Jaron Punzalan, sophomore Ethan Hildebrandt

Outlook: The Storm features no shortage of talent. Norasith went 33-5 as a sophomore last year and got the fourth round of the consolation bracket at state where he went 3-2. He's South Elgin's first two-time state qualifier. Manzano and Patel play No. 1 doubles and also are returning state qualifiers. Felker moves from No. 2 doubles to No. 2 singles this year, while Somsavath and Benbrook will play No. 2 doubles. Benbrook has only been playing tennis since his sophomore year. "Jesse has made great strides to be the best player he can be," said Johnson. The coach feels this year's group could be the best in school history. "The team has the ability to be the best that South Elgin has had," said Johnson. "The returning players have seen what it takes to do well and I believe their hard work, leadership and positive motivation will help bring the team together. The team is prepared to raise the bar even higher than last year. The players know what our goals are for the season. The question is if they want to dig deep and fight for each one of them. If each player believes that we can do it and they want to put the sweat into it then we have a great chance to do great things this year."

Streamwood Sabres

Coach: Kari Klein (1st season)

Top returning players: Seniors Kosuke Enami (No. 1 doubles), Nelson Santana (No. 1 doubles)

Key newcomers: Senior Kenny Campos, junior Adil Saddique, sophomores Chris Santos, James Mei, freshmen Michael Damrose, Justin Sisouvankham, Ravi Ghayal, Gavin Wu, Miraj Patel, Andy Opiela, Brian Duff, Ryan Cunanan.

Outlook: Enami and Santana will play No. 1 doubles this year. The Sabres also will field a JV team this season. "I'm excited to have such fresh talent and to see the new players develop through the season," said Klein. "The team has excellent communication and an amazing eagerness to grow as players and as a team as a whole. They come to practice ready to work hard and have a great positive attitude and are highly competitive. We'll be coming in a much stronger team than last year. We will continue to grow stronger as a team and be willing to put our hearts into our play this season."

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