Aurora Central Catholic
Coach: Mac Cowen
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Last year: 9-9, fifth in conference. Top returners: Jared Cebulski, sr., Mitch Lavoy, jr., Sean Harreld, sr.
Key newcomers: Eddie Cainge, fr., Tony Perez, jr.
Outlook: The Chargers bring back some key pieces including top singles player Cebulski and their first doubles team of Lavoy and Harreld. But other than that Aurora Central Catholic has to replace five of its top eight players. "Jared is a solid player and top four finisher in conference last year," Cowen said. "He has an outside shot at state if things fall his way." Cowen said Cainge and Perez could either play doubles together or split time at No. 2 singles. "Both work hard and play in the off-season so they have nice upside," said Cowen, who pointed to defending champion Marmion as the team to beat in conference. "Until someone beats Marmion and I don't think anyone has in 10 years they are the ones to beat."
Coach: Brad Nelson
Last year: 11-7, Upstate Eight Conference River Division champions. Top returners: Ryan Sterling, sr., Tim Murat, sr., Drake Swift, so. Adam Maris, jr., Jeff Lorden, sr., Josh Boyle, jr., Andrew Nelson, so., James Carr, jr., Joe Maenza, sr., T. Guillemot, sr., Emerson Hinzy, so.
Key newcomers: Nick Robinson, so., Jake Tamplin, jr., Gunnar Malm, jr.
Outlook: It promises to be another big year for Batavia who brings back all 11 starters from last year's conference champions. Sterling went 21-8 last year at first singles and finished second in conference. Murat had a 20-4 record and won a conference championship at No. 2 singles while Swift went 16-8 at No. 3 singles and finished second in conference. The Bulldogs also are strong in doubles with a pair of conference champions -- Boyle and Nelson (19-12) at No. 2 doubles, and Guillemot and Hinzy (10-8) at fourth doubles. The first doubles team of Maris and Lorden finished second in conference and went 25-6 overall while Carr and Maenza were 9-9 at third doubles. Coach Brad Nelson said Robinson, Tamplin and Malm will be competing for a spot in doubles. "Everyone in our lineup has improved since last season," Nelson said. "We are looking at moving some people around in the lineup, including having Sterling play doubles and moving Carr to singles." Even though Batavia has so much back from a conference championship team, that doesn't mean repeating is a given with the strength the UEC has. "St. Charles East and St. Charles North will both be strong this season and Geneva has some experience returning as well," Nelson said. "The conference race should go down to the wire, just as it did last season."
Coach: John Nickelson
Last year: 11-6, fourth place in conference. Top returners: Quade Spellman, sr., Curran McQuilkin, sr., Nick Huang, sr., Ryan Doeckel, sr., John Potts, sr., Brad Burgess, jr., Jakob Grootens, so., Christian Fournier, so.
Outlook: Nickelson with his assistants Jose Rivas and Zach Evans have a few key players to replace like Nick McCarty who teamed with returnee Potts to go 2-2 at state last year. Huang and Doeckel also qualified for state last year after winning a sectional title while Spellman and McQuilkin took second in conference at third doubles. Nickelson said don't be surprised if there are some new faces joining the returnees at key spots in the lineups. "There are quite a number of returning JV players and newcomers that look to challenge for varsity positions," Nickelson said. "There are especially high expectations for last year's state qualifiers."
Coach: John Tsang
Last year: 15-0, second straight undefeated regular season, fifth straight conference championship and first sectional title. Top returners: John Graft, sr., Ricky Angstin, sr., Kevin Hoss, sr., Dave Demoll, jr., John King, so., Luke Hoss, so., John King, so.
Outlook: In addition to all those accomplishments above, the Cadets also had three state qualifiers and four individual conference champions in yet another excellent season for Tsang's program. They haven't lost a conference match in three years after again going 8-0 last season. The Cadets won invitationals at St. Bede, Batavia, Lockport, West Aurora and Yorkville. "Marmion tennis is very focused on creating the action and is very offensive minded but also plays good defense when necessary," Tsang said. The Cadets will miss Jackson Rettig -- "one of the best Marmion tennis players ever to represent school," Tsang said -- who played first doubles with Graft. Those two went 3-2 at state and won the conference championship while finishing 25-4 overall. King had a breakout season playing No. 1 singles as a freshman, making it to state and going 1-2. Angstin and Kevin Hoss won the SCC second doubles title, and Luke Hoss was on the third doubles championship team while Demoll won the second singles title.
St. Charles East
Coach: Rob Livermore
Last year: 14-7, third in Upstate Eight Conference River. Top returners: Jasper Koenen, sr., George Spoerl, sr., Matt McCarthy, sr., Alex Winters, so.
Outlook: The Saints return the best player in the area and one of the top in the state in Koenen, who finished fourth in the state last year. He's already a three-time sectional champion who is committed to Michigan State. "Tough competition with most teams bringing back many players," Livermore said of the UEC River. "We hope to finish at the top. Excited about the spring season. Our team has a lot of depth and will be able to compete on every court."
St. Charles North
Coach: Sean Masconcup
Last year: 17-4, second in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division. Top returners: Grant Spellman, sr., Keith Hedges, sr., Mitch Riggs, sr., Matt Ernst, so., Matt Kramer, so., Brady Goldsworthy, Peter O'Brien, Thomas Ninan.
Key newcomers: Aaron Amburgey, jr.
Outlook: Now in his fifth season with a 75-7 record, Masoncup brings back much of a team that came up just 1 point short of winning a conference championship to Batavia. Spellman leads that group, a four-year varsity player already at 78 wins. He'll play first doubles. Hedges qualified for state last year, and Riggs is a returning all-conference selection and somewhat rare tennis player who also started on his school's football team. "Keith will be a huge factor in our success, and Mitch will another person we rely on heavily," Masconcup said. Ernst also earned all-conference last year. Amburgey is a move-in from Kentucky where he qualified for state. "He is an extremely talented tennis player," Masconcup said. "He will be one of the top players on our squad and will team up with Grant Spellman at one doubles." Masconcup said the team's strength lies in its doubles lineup. "Batavia returns all their starters from last year's conference championship so they are the front-runner for sure," Masconcup said. "We should be in the group right behind them. If we work hard everyday in practice we will have a chance to be pretty good this season. We are going to be very deep this season with several returning varsity players. Our two sophomores Matt Ernst and Matt Kramer will be counted on to solidify our singles lineup. Our main goal is to improve each and every practice."
Coach: Tad Keely
Top returners: Nick Kuntzi, sr., Julian Merluzzi, so., Brandon La, sr., Irving Espinosa, jr., Ian Sewell, jr., Adam Spooner, jr., William Isiminger, fr.
Outlook: First-year coach Keely credits assistant coach Bill Stanley for making the transition from last year's coach Adam Camp "seamless." "I am really excited about this spring," Keely said. "We have a great group of guys that really enjoy being around each other. I believe that we will be strongest at singles." The Blackhawks do have experience there with Kuntzi and Merluzzi. La can play either singles or doubles, and Isiminger will step into the singles lineup as a freshman. "Nick Kuntzi is in his senior year and has really matured according to coach Stanley," Keely said. "We have some young talent to round out the singles lineup and should be able to surprise some teams." Espinosa, Sewell and Spooner will all play doubles giving Keely a number of good options. "We have some of the best depth that West Aurora has had in the past few years," Keely said. "If we can compete at one of the three spots in doubles, I really believe that we can compete in every match." West Aurora will get one last crack at the top teams in the DuPage Valley Conference before moving to the Upstate Eight next season. " I firmly believe that we are in one of the toughest conferences in the state," Keely said. "Naperville North and Naperville Central are always tough opponents. Our goal is to be able to compete and have fun while we are doing it."