North Suburban Conference champ Stevenson dominated day one of its own tennis sectional Friday afternoon, but a pair of four-year veterans and a newcomer to the scene squeezed their way into the picture as play came to and end at the spacious Vernon Hills Athletic Complex.
The Patriots are way ahead of the field in the team race with 16 points, and have qualified all four teams into next week's state tournament when Saturday's 9 a.m. semifinals begin day No. 2.
"We got ourselves a good draw coming into the tournament, and the guys went out and did what they had to, so it was a good day for Stevenson tennis," said Patriots coach Tom Stanhope.
Jeremy Bush (24-3) and younger brother Benjamin led the way at singles for the Patriots, while their teammates at doubles, Colin Harvey/Andrew Komarov (14-2) and Pawel Jaworski/Josh Lieberman (21-3), required little time in dispatching two opponents each to reach the semifinals.
Barrington senior Varun Parekh (17-7) will make his third appearance in four years at the state tourney after a hard-fought 6-3, 7-6 (2) victory over Grant Thompson of Lake Zurich, who was returning to the Bears' program after a two year absence on the USTA circuit.
"I knew coming into today that this could be my last time ever playing in high school, and for Barrington," said Parekh, the Broncos' captain, "but we put a good plan of attack and stayed with it, and right now it feels really amazing to make it back to state.
"It's kind of bittersweet, though, because Grant and I have been good friends for a long time, and we hit with each other nearly every day during the off-season, so it was tough to see him not making it through."
Vernon Hills senior Ishmail Kadarov saw his prep career pass before his eyes when he tweaked his back during the NSC tournament last weekend, taking him out of action for good on that day and jeopardizing his bid to reach the state tourney for the third time in his career.
While seeing that his standout got plenty of extra care and rehab throughout the week, coach Doug Gerber figured Kadarov's best chance to advance might be at doubles. So the Cougars coach teamed his star player with David Dobrik, and the move proved to be prescient as the duo upended 3-4 seed Ben Adams/Will Herzog of Barrington 6-2, 6-3.
"I thought I was in a little bit of trouble when this happened last week when I was playing Ben (VanDixhorn, of Libertyville), but we worked hard all week to get me a clean bill of health," said Kadarov, who will play next fall at Detroit Mercy. "But the thing that makes me happiest of all is to see my partner making it downstate for the first time in his career, and only the second player ever in program history."
After watching his older brother cruise to a pair of victories at the top half of the bracket, Benjamin Bush (14-4) outlasted Carmel standout Kevin Hunt 7-5, 6-2 to earn his first trip to the tournament and a place opposite VanDixhorn (23-7) in the semifinals.
"I knew after seeing the draw, I knew Kevin (Hunt) was going to be a difficult opponent, and after getting off to a good start, he got himself back in the match," Benjamin Bush said, "but once I started to put important points away, I was able to finally get control of things -- and it feels great going to state with Jeremy."