Jacobs celebrates first sectional crown
Whether you were a Jacobs tennis player graduating or not, Saturday was quite the celebration to say the least.
The Golden Eagles, who qualified all 6 of their participants in the Elgin sectional to state, won the sectional with 29 points, the program's first sectional championship.
South Elgin placed second with 24 and Hampshire was third with 21.
The meet, which was originally scheduled for 9 a.m. was moved up to 2 hours to accommodate Jacobs' graduation at the Sears Centre.
Coach Jim Benson was gladly keeping time throughout for seniors Kingsley Bernardo and Brandon Sidor, who took home first place in doubles action, beating South Elgin's Francis Manzano and Aayush Patel 6-0, 6-3.
Kingsley's brother, Kristian, and teammate Keegan Gaspari placed fourth in doubles while Kailish Panchapakesan and Kendrick Chong placed third and fourth in singles. The all-Jacobs third-place showdown did not go as scheduled since Panchapakesean won by injury default.
"I'm extremely proud of each and every one of my boys," Benson said. "Especially, my seniors. They've been battling all weekend, I've been coaching these guys the last four years. I started with these guys, and they've always been fighters for me. And finally it pays off."
For seniors like Bernardo and Sidor, they were going to state no matter what. Getting to the graduation on time with a sectional title was another story.
"Brandon was getting (mad) because he thought we were going to be late," Kingsley said. "We just stayed focused. And we're going to graduate when we graduate. We just (had) to focus on our match."
Pumped up and motivated, Bernardo and Sidor came out firing, cruising for all 6 points in the first set.
"Our net play was pretty good today, we finished points, we didn't give up any easy points and we just put the pressure on them," said Bernardo.
In its 6-3 second-set win, the team kept its momentum by staying on serve, getting good ground strokes and keeping the energy up.
"We were on serve so I didn't think we lost momentum at all, and if we just held serve we'd win the match, and that's what we did," Bernardo said. "It not only gets us the championship, it gets our whole team a championship points-wise so it feels really good to get our team the win. We deserved it."
Just too many errors caught up with Manzano and Patel (24-16), who lost in the state qualifying rounds last year.
"We just made more mistakes than them," Manzano said. Patel added: "More movement at the net could have helped us win that match."
South Elgin did bring home a singles title. Top-seeded Andre Norasith (34-7) beat Hampshire's Elisha Hougland (37-7) in 3 sets, 6-2, 6-7 (7-5), 6-3 for the championship.
In the decisive third set, Hougland led 2-1 but Norasith rallied to win the next 4 points, including a fourth point in which he was down 15-40. Hougland held serve at 5-3 but Norasith served his way to victory.
"My serving and my backhand were pretty good. My forehand let me down a couple times," said Norasith, who finished in second last year in sectionals and 3-2 at state. "Basically, (it was) just support from the crowd, they were just helping me out and I knew I couldn't let them down. They got me into it."
Hougland admitted he was a tad tired early on, trying to get used to Norasith's style. He showed moxie in the second set with his serve moving Norasith around the court but as Norasith put more pace on the ball and hit it deep, his aggressiveness and consistency earned him several winners.
"I had the momentum winning that second set, had the momentum going into the (third), got up 2 games," Hougland said. "When it was 2-all, he was just crushing serves, getting aces. There was nothing I could do about it. He played really well in the third set after those two games."
Hampshire's Jake Dahlberg and Chad West won in 3 sets over Gaspari and Bernardo 6-4, 6-7 (7-3), 6-3 for third place doubles.
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