Naperville Central claims sectional crown
If you were trying to gauge the percentage of bitter and sweet on the Marmion's doubles team of John Graft and Jackson Rettig's bittersweet day at the West Aurora sectional Saturday, think at least 90 percent sweet.
Even the bitter part, a loss in the sectional final to Naperville Central's No. 1 seed Wesley Lo and Sid Swamy, wasn't that bad, and it certainly did little to dampen the sweet part of earning a trip to the state tournament.
"I feel we are just as good as they are, honestly," Rettig said. "At state they might have a seed but we can take out seeds and go pretty far. I feel we are very comparable."
Sending all six players to state, Naperville Central dominated the team standings with 29 points for its second sectional title in the past three years after finishing second to Marmion a year ago.
"This has been a perfect weekend for us," Naperville Central coach Dan Brown said. "It's great to get the whole team to advance to state. It's a good opportunity for us to win some matches and get some points and see where we stack up."
The Cadets finished just behind Waubonsie Valley in third, 18-16, while Metea Valley, IMSA, Batavia, Aurora Central Catholic and West Aurora rounded out the field.
This is the first year Rettig, a senior, and the junior Graft have teamed up, and the 6-4, 6-2 loss in the sectional final was just their second of the season, the other to Conant in a 13-11 second set.
"I feel we play really well together," Rettig said. "I'm power and he has control."
It was Lo and Swamy who jumped to an early 4-0 lead in the first set, all four games going to deuce.
Marmion fought back and closed to within 5-4 when Rettig held serve, then had two break points against Lo to tie the set. The Redhawks fought them off, then Lo closed the set with an overhead smash.
"I think were playing well, keeping up with them," Graft said. "I don't think the score (4-0) reflected how we were playing. We just couldn't close."
The teams combined for three straight service breaks to start the second set. With Graft serving down 4-2, a couple double faults put Naperville Central on the verge of the title.
Rettig ripped two winners to put Lo down love-30, but the Redhawks again came back as a couple of Rettig's shots sailed long. including a volley on match point.
"I felt we were playing well, just a few little things that need adjustments," Rettig said. "I guess they were a little better today."
The Cadets reached the championship with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 win over another Naperville Central team, juniors Justin Gillette and Daniel Delgrosso.
Lo and Swamy have only played about a dozen matches together this year, a pairing Brown said he put together for a few weekend tournaments. Lo is a three-time state qualifier in doubles while Swamy is normally a singles player.
"They get along well together and have won some good matches this year including this one over Marmion," Brown said.
Marmion also is sending freshman singles player John King to state after King finished fourth.
Brown had plenty to like up and down the Naperville Central lineup. Dan Albert, who finished top 16 at state last year in doubles with Lo, entered sectionals as the No. 2 singles seed and finished second after losing to top seed Eric Marbach from Waubonsie Valley 6-1, 6-0. Albert won the DuPage Valley Conference No. 1 singles title the previous week.
"He's had a good couple weeks," Brown said.
The biggest surprise for Naperville Central came from its second singles player, junior Kevin Wang, who entered the tournament unseeded but finished third. Wang defeated King 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) for third place, the third seeded player he defeated.
"Dan played as good as he has all year to take out a 5/6 and a 3 and another in the third-place match," Brown said. "Finishing third place for him being unseeded is a huge accomplishment. I couldn't be happier for him."
At Geneva: The race for the team title could not have been much closer between the top four teams Saturday at the Geneva sectional.
St. Charles East, paced by the top two singles players, wound up with 18 points, to edge St. Charles North (17), and Geneva and Lake Park both with 16 points.
The Saints' Jasper Koenen won the singles title over teammate Justin Bowman, winning the first set 6-1 before Bowman retired.
Bowman picked up a huge win for the Saints earlier Saturday over St. Charles North's Dominic Amalraj in the semifinals, 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 6-2.
Geneva excelled in doubles. The Vikings had the tournament champs — juniors Ryan Doeckel and Nick Huang defeated Lake Park's Evan Sabal and Jack Millikan, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.
Geneva also had a surprise qualifier in John Potts and Nick McCarty who ended up finishing fourth after falling 7-5, 6-2 to St. Charles North's Grant Spellman and Keith Hedges in the third-place match.
Spellman and Hedges nearly reached the championship but lost to the No. 1 seed from Geneva Doeckel and Huang in three sets — 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) — in the semifinals.
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