Eric Marbach of Waubonsie Valley returned to varsity tennis this season after two years away on the USTA circuit because he wanted a shot at the state title in his senior year.
On Saturday Marbach came very close to his goal when he finished second in the state tournament singles bracket losing 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in a closely fought three-set match to the No. 1 seed, Hinsdale Central's Martin Joyce.
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"He finished the season with a 29-1 record," said Waubonsie Valley coach Phil Galow. "And he went three sets, 4-6 in the final set, in the state finals with the best player in the state. Eric really impressed me with the way he played and with the way he conducted himself all season. I'm very proud of him."
"I was really close," Marbach said. "I was happy with the way I played, especially in the tournament. It was a great season."
In the semifinals Marbach faced Michael Lorenzini, also of Hinsdale Central, which successfully defended its Illinois state championship, in a grueling three-set match that took more than three hours to complete.
Marbach played the entire day on a taped ankle that he had injured in fourth-round play on Friday. He started slowly in both matches as he got used to the taping, but he said, he didn't think about he injury much after that.
"Last night I couldn't even walk," Marbach said. "But after the ankle loosened up in each match I was able to move fine. I had my opportunities early in the third set against Joyce. I could have taken more chances. But Joyce was too good today. "
Marbach thought he played better in the loss to Joyce than he did in the win against Lorenzini.
"Lorenzini is more crafty," Marbach said. "He wants you to attack him so he can get his passing shots against you. Joyce is the complete opposite. He gives you pace. I like playing an up-tempo guy like Joyce, rather than a cat-and-mouse game with Lorenzini."
Joyce praised Marbach for his play in the championship match.
"He has a pretty big serve and he gets his fair share of free points with it," Joyce said. "He moves real well, he's tough at the net and he comes up with big volleys."
The state doubles final was an all-Hinsdale Central match with Eddie Grabill and Harold Martin defeating Alex Hagermoser and Peter Henegan 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.
Lorenzini bested Jasper Koenen of St. Charles East 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-1 for third place at singles.
"It feels good winning the state singles title," Joyce said. "But I'm even happier that the team got it done. We talked about getting the team championship from the first day of practice. It feels really good."
Until the loss in the semifinals, the Red Devils had won 43 straight matches.
"I feel happy for the kids," said Hinsdale Central coach John Naisbitt. "This is a very talented bunch of very determined athletes who wanted to win and were hungry all year. We stayed healthy and we went after it the past few days. I couldn't be more proud of the way they handled themselves."
Hinsdale Central finished with 59 points, far ahead of Lake Forest and Stevenson which tied for second with 36 points. Downers Grove South was seventh with 17 points. Neuqua Valley achieved its goal of a top-10 finish by finishing eighth with 18 points as did Naperville Central, which tied for ninth with 15 points.
With Marbach accounting for all of its 14 points, Waubonsie Valley finished just outside the top 10 in 11th place.