The history making ride at the state tournament by Jasper Koenen came to a close on a chilly afternoon Saturday in Arlington Heights at tourney host Hersey High School.
The St. Charles East junior fell this short in his bid for a third-place medal when he dropped a hard-fought 6-7 (4), 6-3, 1-6 match to Michael Lorenzini of Hinsdale Central to end a grueling, but memorable three days.
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"I am very happy and thrilled with how I played and where I finished, and it proves you get back what you put something (into) and I've worked hard to improve my game, and I believe that I proved to be one of the best at singles in the state this season," said an exhausted Koenen (29-6) who would become the first top 4 player in the Saints program since 2002, when Mark Barry earned a third-place medal after defeating Paul Rose of New Trier.
"I am really proud of my achievement this weekend, as well as (Waubonsie Valley's) Eric (Marbach) and it shows the Upstate Eight is a major player in state tennis, and one to watch next season for sue.
Marbach (35-1) surprised those who didn't know of the superb player from Waubonsie Valley after outlasting Michael Lorenzini (Hinsdale Central) in a 3 1/2 hour, three-set match in the semifinals. Then he turned around to give a valiant effort in the final against favorite Martin Joyce (30-1) also of Hinsdale Central, before falling in three sets.
Joyce, and his doubles teammates, Eddie Grabill and Harold Martin (25-3), would each lift individual championship trophies, before raising the big prize after the Red Devils scorched the competition by 23 points, outscoring runners-up Stevenson and Lake Forest, 59-36.
"It's an amazing feeling to be part of a team like no other in state history," said Joyce, who was obviously aware that he and his mates had broke the previous record for most points by a team champion, set by New Trier (56) also during the 2002 season.
Joyce ended Koenen's chances for a shot at his Upstate Eight rival when the sensational sophomore beat the Saints big star in Saturday's semifinals, 6-2, 6-3.
"I thought I played well at times against Martin, but he hit a lot of big shots when he needed them, and I really feel a big advantage for him was to be in this same spot last season," said Koenen. "I was never able to get comfortable with all of the pressure surrounding a semifinal match, and he seemed really composed, and that will be were I am at next season when I get here again."
"Yeah, that's a big deal," agreed Joyce.
"Jasper is a very good player, who plays so effortlessly, but hits a heavy ball in doing so, and (I'm) with Jasper, I never really felt the stress of playing in the semis, and that's a big advantage to have."
The three-time sectional champ made a nice little run at Lorenzini in the first set, going up 5-4, before dropping that set in a tiebreaker, but he responded, just as he has all weekend, with a well-played second set victory to set up a third and deciding set.
Once there however, the Red Devils sophomore, who finished sixth at the prestigious Easter Bowl last month, built a 5-0 lead, before Koenen broke Lorenzini, who quickly broke back to pull of the win.
"Michael just didn't miss at times, and in the end, that might have been the difference," said Koenen.
"I feel like I represented our program and conference very well, and that was important for me to do -- and all-in-all, it was a tremendous weekend, and one that I am very proud of."