Can anyone challenge Hinsdale Central a month from now in the boys tennis state tournament?
Not likely, based on the most recent evidence.
The Red Devils rolled past 31 teams over the weekend to earn the team championship at the Tom Pitchford '32' Invitational going away on Saturday. Hinsdale Central also likely will get Martin Joyce as the state tourney's top seed, along with teammates Lope Adelakun and Chase Hamilton at doubles after victories at tournament host Hersey on Saturday.
The Red Devils, who last year crushed the field with a perfect score of 80 overall points, nearly matched that record with 76 points, 26 points clear of runner-up Lake Forest and 28 more than third-place New Trier.
Stevenson finished fourth in the team race with 44 points, while downstate Edwardsville rounded out the top five with 41 points.
Hinsdale Central's dominance came despite the absence of Michael Lorenzini, a key player from last year's championship group who only recently left the team this spring.
"With Michael leaving the team, it meant that everyone would have to step up their play," said junior Eddie Grabell, who turned in a terrific two days of play to capture a title at No. 2 singles, thus sharpening his resume for a run at a 3-4 seed at state.
Grabell defeated Libertyville freshman Stefano Tsorotiotis 6-1, 7-6 (3) in the final.
"It was important for me to come out and play as well as I could in my first big tournament to not only help my team, but also myself in the eyes of the rest of the state," said Tsorotiotis, who in his four matches leading up the final had lost just six games, including a 55-minute contest in the semifinals with Christian San Andres of Downers Grove South. "Eddie is a great player, but I was overhitting way too much in that match, especially in that first set. But I felt I came around and played way better in the second set."
Ben VanDixhorn, Tsorotiotis terrific teammate at No. 1 for the Wildcats, had plenty to be proud of despite falling short in his semifinal loss to Joyce in straight sets.
"Much like last year at state when I found out I could play with the big boys after my match with state runner-up Eric Marbach (of Waubonsie Valley), it was the same this year with Martin," said VanDixhorn. "Martin is obviously a great player with a big-time serve, but I felt that I was right there with him at times. The experience now of playing against the defending state champ will go a long way from here on out."
Joyce found himself fighting for his tennis life in the quarterfinals, as Downers Grove South junior Tony Leto took him to the brink before falling in a two-plus hour, three-set match, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Leto was brilliant throughout, showing tremendous composure, especially on returns off Joyce's vaunted high-velocity serve.
"I felt that I was able to counter his great serve and all-around game by returning so well, and I think it gave him some trouble while helping build my confidence as our match went on," said Leto.
The Mustangs star kept Joyce on the ropes, especially during the third and final set, by hitting some memorable winners. And Leto rarely missed when points were there to be had.
Joyce was up 5-3 before Leto roared back to get even at 5-5. But after breaking Leto, Joyce quickly finished things off.
"I've played Tony before, and he's a very good player," Joyce said. "I thought he did just about everything as well as he could to give me a great game. It felt like a state final match out there."
Leto later fell to Metamora three-time state qualifier Will Koehrsen in the fifth-place match.
In doubles, Stevenson's Colin Harvey and Andrew Komarov looked to be on track to win their first title here following a relatively easy quarterfinal victory followed by another quick test against Deerfield's Chris Casati/Niko Wasilewicz in the semifinals to meet Adelakun and Hamilton of Hinsdale Central.
The Red Devils tandem had its hands full earlier, first with Highland Park's Max Gordon/Dan Aizenberg, and then 3-4 seed Miguel Perez/Dave Zakhodin of Glenbrook North, but still managed to earn their spot opposite Stevenson.
"We haven't been together for very long, but Lope and I have great chemistry, hang out together away from tennis, and enjoy being partners, and that goes a long way when your playing doubles," said Hamilton.
The Patriots burst into the lead by taking the first set 6-1, but dropped the next two by 6-3 decisions.
"A lot of unforced errors, and I know, for me, playing three matches in one day started to take a toll on my legs," said Komarov. "But you've got to give a lot of credit to Hinsdale, especially Chase, because he was hitting some big shots for them."
"They hit the clutch shots, with Chase hitting key winners when they needed them," said Harvey. "But Lope is a very good player also, and we could have played better as well."
The Patriots' No. 2 doubles team of Adam Maryniuk/Matt Harvey defeated Barrington's Matt Mulligan/Vijay Tripuraneni in straight sets to earn fifth-place honors at Rolling Meadows.
Brett Myers of Neuqua Valley came all the way back to win a consolation title at No. 1 singles, while the No. 1 doubles team from Buffalo Grove, Peter Georgiades/Anton Levitin, just missed doing likewise after falling in straight sets to Lyons Township's Jack Wennerstrum/Cuyler Burke 6-1, 6-1.