Naperville Norh reaches deep to pull out triumph
With two key players missing, Naperville North's superior depth was on display Monday as players throughout the lineup stepped up and led the Huskies to a key DuPage Valley Conference victory.
The Huskies (6-3, 2-0) swept the three doubles matches and got clutch victories from second- and third-singles Jake Kokoris and Jiwoo Huang to come away with a 5-2 win over host Wheaton Warrenville South in a meet that was closer than the final score.
With the last two matches still being played the result could have gone either way.
But the Huskies managed wins at first doubles where Rohit Rastogi and Steven Nguyen pulled out a 7-6, 7-3 victory after trailing for most of the first set, and at second singles, where Kokoris moved up from third singles and registered a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win.
"Wheaton Warrenville South always challenges you physically and mentally," said Naperville North coach Heather Henricksen. "They fight for every point and they always find a way to put the ball back in play. It's tough going against them with two key players, Terrance Chen and Benny Li, out of the lineup. Our doubles teams made a lot of unforced errors, but they all found a way to come back and win. The depth is what is so great about this team."
Henricksen praised Kokoris, a sophomore, who defeated the Tigers' Nick Pieters, one of those players who gets everything back. Kokoris had a strong tournament at second singles last weekend at Prospect and that may have prepared him for Monday's match.
"Jake took his game up to a higher level by putting more pace on the ball," Henricksen said. "Last Saturday he was challenged mentally about closing out points and he did a great job of that tonight."
"I played a real tough Lake Forest player in the tournament and I lost," Kokoris said. "But that match helped me a lot because I haven't been challenged that much. Today I just played my game. I've faced guys before with that baseline style, and today I had a good match as a counterpuncher."
Patti Clousing, the coach of Wheaton Warrenville South (6-4, 1-1), was disappointed by the loss but happy that her team was still in it until the end.
"We played well and we fought back, forcing a couple of tiebreakers and a third set," Clousing said. "At the end we were holding our own and those last two matches could have gone either way."
She also lauded first-singles Charlie McDonough and fourth-singles Jack Smith, who produced the two wins for the Tigers.
"Charlie will be interesting to watch in the future," Clousing said. "He's consistent and he's a fighter. He's going to surprise a lot of people. Jack was starting for the first time today and his win will be a great confidence builder. Naperville North has so much depth and experience and we knew we would have to earn every point."
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