If Stevenson and New Trier are on the tennis courts at the same time, it must mark the official start of the regular season.
The two perennial state powers opened the 2014 campaign at the A.C. Nielsen Tennis Center in Winnetka on Tuesday afternoon -- and on the strength of wins at No. 1 singles and first doubles, the host Trevians earned a 7-2 victory over the Patriots.
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"After playing tennis against each other for nearly a month, it was good to finally get out there and face another opponent," said Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope, whose Patriots won the North Suburban Conference title last season and finished runners-up to Hinsdale Center in the IHSA state tournament.
"We always open our season against New Trier, and the great thing about playing a top-level opponent like them is you immediately see the things you have to work on. After today, we obviously have a lot of things to work on."
All eyes were on the Patriots' top doubles team of Colin Harvey and Andrew Komarov, who last season earned third-place honors at the state tournament.
They were facing the Trevians' No. 1 duo of Scott and Tom Bickel in the feature match.
The Patriots struggled to find their form in the first set -- falling 7-6 in a tiebreaker -- before roaring back with a solid 6-2 victory.
In the decisive third set, Harvey and Komarov rallied on three occasions to draw even -- once at 2-2, then 3-3 and finally 5-5 -- after living on the edge of a 5-3 deficit.
But the Bickel brothers prevailed 7-5 after Tom Bickel held serve and the pair broke Harvey to win the nearly 3½-hour marathon under the lights of this gorgeous facility.
"The Bickels played very well and my guys weren't as sharp as they could be," Stanhope said. "They know that, and tomorrow we'll get back and begin to fix some things, and they will be fine next time out."
The Trevians swept nearly all of the doubles flights, except at No. 2, where Adam Maryniuk and Josh Cheng enjoyed a straight-sets win (7-5, 6-3) over the team of Hanley and Mayer.
For the first time in recent history, the Patriots will feature a young, inexperienced bunch at singles, led by sophomore Benjamin Bush, In his rookie year as a freshman. Bush advanced to the state tournament behind his brother Jeremy, who finished a brilliant four-year career with a fifth-place state trophy.
Joining Bush is the freshman combo of Matt Harvey and Brian Weisberg, who held the second and third singles spots with junior Kyle Gordon at No. 4.
New Trier senior Alex Galoustian, the No. 2 seed last year at the state tournament, recorded a 6-0, 6-0 win over Bush. Harvey fell 6-2, 6-3 to Corey Schwartz. Weisberg gave the Patriots their lone singles victory with a hard-fought 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 triumph.
Gordon dropped a three-setter to Aaron Frankl by scores of 4-6, 7-5, 3-6.
"Our two freshmen showed pretty well in their first-ever varsity appearance," said Patriots assistant Jeff Bernales. "At times, you could see how their opponent, as an upperclassmen, had the advantage in a variety of ways. But both of our guys had their moments also, and in the early going, they will learn on the fly a little, take their lumps -- but in the end, come out in very good shape."
Bernales said that Harvey has all the tools to be a success, just as his older brother Colin has become. Against Schwartz, Harvey exhibited a nice game from the baseline.
As for Weisberg, Bernales was impressed with his staying power, especially after losing his first set.
"I told him he needed to have a case of short-term memory loss in regards to the first set, and to put it behind him as quick as he could, and (instead) focus on playing two more sets," Bernales said.
Weisberg did just that, and after finding a little rhythm while putting away some shots, Weisberg forced a third set and looked to be getting stronger as he closed out Ben Yamaguchi.
"New Trier has several new guys in their lineup, just as we do, so it was good to get a look at them today, because we'll see them several more times before the season is over," Stanhope said.