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updated: 5/4/2013 9:20 PM

Benet's Romano steps up under pressure

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By Neil Shalin
Daily Herald Correspondent

Alex Romano knew that the score was 2-2 and that his match would decide Benet's fate against the host Huskies in Saturday's tennis tournament at Naperville North, but that knowledge just made him stronger.

Romano scored a 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 tiebreaker win at second singles against the Huskies' Jake Kokoris to give the Redwings a 3-2 win in the meet that was one-third of the weather-shortened version of the Naper Valley Invitational.

"I was aware that our match was the winning point, but that didn't bother me," Romano said. "I started slowly and lost my first set. But then I said it was time to turn it up. So I started going for all my shots and I started playing my game. I found the gaps and that kept going through the tiebreaker and the next match."

Friday's rains wiped out the early rounds of what was to be the 16-team Naper Valley Invitational on Friday night. So the teams that were available to continue Saturday if the weather held up were split into three mini-tournaments of three or four teams, playing a round-robin set of meets with a two singles, three doubles format.

Even though it wasn't a formal tournament, everyone was happy to get the work in with the postseason coming next weekend, because so many matches and practices have been lost to rainy and cold weather.

"The kids are not in mental or physical shape," said Benet coach Michael Hand. "They haven't played enough tennis to get themselves up there. Everything is a welcome tuneup at this juncture."

In the Naperville North meet the Redwings also got wins from first-doubles Grant Gatto and Noah Read and from second-doubles Matt Garvin and Steven Kovach.

Hand was particularly pleased with the work of Romano, a senior, who won conference last year at third doubles, and recently returned to his first love, singles play, where he's been undefeated in conference. This will be his first year going to the sectional.

"Alex impressed me with how scrappy he was," Hand said. "He has the kind of fight in him you like to see. He loves to throw his body around. And he's a showman. It's nice to see him willing to step up like that in a pressure situation. He can compete with anyone."

Romano believes his game has taken a jump forward this year.

"I'm a singles player at heart, because I like it when the pressure is all on me," he said.

"My depth has improved and I'm better at placing my serve. Today was a good experience. It was all we could ask for. The weather was fine and we had the opportunity to play against good teams. It was very enjoyable."

The Redwings also competed against Lincoln-Way East and St. Charles North.

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