There was nothing but black and green atop the victory stand Saturday afternoon when the Stevenson boys tennis sectional came to a close on the sun-kissed courts of the Vernon Hills Athletic Complex.
The Patriots recorded a clean sweep at doubles, then watched a nearly three-hour match finally swing in favor of freshman Benjamin Bush over senior Varun Parekh (Barrington).
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That outcome gave the hosts Patriots a third-place singles medal to go along its championship singles hardware from Jeremy Bush as Stevenson wrapped up the team title.
Colin Harvey/Andrew Komarov (16-2) got things going with a nearly flawless performance in the championship match over teammate Pawel Jaworski/Josh Lieberman, and the rest of the pieces fell into place afterward as the Patriots ran away from both Libertyville (12 points) and Barrington (10) with 27 points.
"It was a great day, and especially with the fact that we got all of our teams through, which gives us a good chance to go after a top-three finish next weekend at the state tournament," said Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope.
Harvey/Komarov capped a superb two days of tennis with its 6-2, 6-1 victory in the finals. That result more than likely sealed a 3-4 seed at the state tournament, which begins Thursday.
"We knew what was at stake going into the match with Pawel and Josh," said Harvey, who missed a considerable amount of time earlier with a foot injury, but has bounced back along with his partner Komarov. "I have to say, earlier in the week when I figured it would be us against them, I had a difficult time sleeping and relaxing, knowing we were playing our good friends and teammates in maybe our biggest match of the season thus far."
"It was kind of hard when Colin was out," said Komarov. "I played with a couple of partners at that time, but we stayed real close with each other away from tennis to help keep our chemistry tight because I think each of us knows we could do some great things next weekend, and you never know what next year will bring."
"That was the tennis those two guys have played all year, and it looks like they are ready to go for next week," said Patriots assistant coach Mark Linnenberger.
The Patriots' top team dispatched Vernon Hills' Ismail Kadarov/David Dobrik in straight-sets in the semifinals. Later, the Cougars were awarded the third-place medal after Jack Springgate/Scott Daluga of Libertyville were forced to retire trailing 3-2 in the second set after they lost the first set 6-2; Springgate was rocked by a return from his teammate in the back of the head, sending the Wildcats' star off the courts for good in a precautionary move.
"That was a tough break for us, but (Jack) is a tough competitor, and one who has been a great role model and leader all season long, so I know he'll be back, and ready for state on Thursday," said Daluga.
The Cats fans turned their attention to top singles player Ben VanDixhorn (24-8) after the Springgate injury, and got to watch their singles star put on a strong showing in the semifinals against Benjamin Bush. Later, Jeremy Bush prevailed 6-2, 6-1 in the final.
"I thought I played (Jeremy) very well in that first set," said VanDixhorn, who went 3-2 in the last year's state tournament. "I shot and served well, but both fell off a little bit in that second half. Jeremy hits his forehand so big, and I needed to just hit bigger. But it was a good weekend for me, and I am looking forward to a strong run at state next week."
Springgate, with playing partner Eric Klein, won three state tourney matches last year, dropping into the backdraw following a straight-set loss to Harvey-Komarov in the third round.
As the temperature began to rise, so did the intensity of the Benjamin Bush (15-5) vs. Varun Parekh (17-8) third-place match, which was not only the last match on, but also the longest.
The senior from Barrington, who reached the state tourney for the third time in his career after a sensational victory over Grant Thompson (Lake Zurich) on Friday, opened sharply to grab a 6-2 first set triumph.
Bush battled back to draw even after a 6-3 victory to set up an eye-popping third set, which went on and on, with several 10-ball rallies, a handful of highlight-reel winners and a sequence near the end of the match which saw both players felled with a case of cramps.
Barrington's captain seemed to have an especially painful experience.
"That was an unbelievable gutsy performance from Varun," said Stanhope. "He showed how much of true player he is with the way he was able to somehow play through the obvious pain he was in to still compete right until the very end -- and a tie-breaker at that."
Parekh needed assistance from the trainer to help keep him afloat, and when it became 6-5 in his favor, then 15-30 with Bush on serve, the Pats young star was unable to catch up to a drop over his head from Parekh when his left leg cramped.
With each player wilting under the sun, Bush fell behind 2-0 in the tiebreaker before reeling off 4 straight points, then two of the next three, to finally put the match away.
"Varun was incredible all weekend, and I cannot tell you how proud of him and his effort all us are," said Barrington coach John Roncone.
"It was great to watch my brother win that third-place match, and now we'll have our entire team in the tournament," said Jeremy Bush, who is a strong candidate for a 3-4 seed. "I feel I played well myself over the two days, and I really believe that I have a long run ahead of me when play begins on Thursday."