Just two days after clinching the North Suburban Conference's Lake Division with a convincing victory at Stevenson, Lake Forest flexed its collective muscle to dominate the field and capture the team title at the Deerfield 8 invite Saturday afternoon.
Scouts boys tennis coach Corky Leighton took the opportunity to rib Deerfield's coach -- that's Corky's son, Josh Leighton.
"Josh has been a terrible host the last 3, 4 years here, so I told him we were about due to be treated better at his tournament," joked Corky Leighton.
The veteran Scouts coach had to like what he saw, especially at singles where top two players Peter Tarwid and Brice Polender swept away the competiton to advance into the finals.
But neither Tarwid, fighting a cold and bad ankle, nor Polender, stepped onto the court to compete for top honors. Both injury defaulted instead.
The same scenario occured at doubles, as Stevenson's Colin Harvey and Andrew Komarov bowed out before facing Scott Christian and Connor O'Kelly of Lake Forest. Harvey was feeling under the weather, and his long-time partner had suffered a minor injury during the first day of play.
"I haven't been feeling well at all of late, and Andrew said he tweaked something in his upper body on Friday, so with so much at stake from here on out, we felt, along with coach (Tom) Stanhope, that it would be best to take the injury default to Scott and Connor today," said Harvey, who with Komarov, had handled the Scouts' duo on Thursday in straight sets.
"We obviously were looking forward to facing them once again, but the great thing about playing for Lake Forest and up in this area, is that we'll have another chance next weekend at the NSC tournament, and hopefully one more time at state, when everything counts a lot more then," said Christian.
All eyes were on the Scouts' Polender and his semifinal opponent, Libertyville's Ben VanDixhorn, who were engaged in a marathon three-setter. After three-plus hours, it went in favor of Polender, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (4).
The Wildcats star junior and his freshman teammate Stefano Tsorotiotis followed the lead of Tarwid and Polender and did not play the third-place match.
VanDixhorn, who defeated Polender in the third round of the state tournament last spring 7-5, 6-3, broke out of the blocks with some sparkling play, combining a high-percentage first serve, along with a variety of winners.
"We're pretty good friends, and we've hit together a lot, and he's beaten me the last two times we've faced each other," said Polender. "So I knew what to expect, but I still wasn't able to do very much in that first set."
Polender finally halted his opponent to force a third set, and the fans at courtside were the better for it as each dazzled the crowd point by point and into a tie-breaker.
"That tie-breaker was crazy, because I went up 4-1, then 5-1 -- but Ben just didn't go away, and I almost gave it away," said Polender.
Tsorotiotis was confident he could produce the same kind of result as Polender. But in the end, Tarwid proved to have too much in his arsenal for Libertyville's freshman.
"I honestly felt I could play with him, but I was too tight, and a little too nervous at the start, and I gave away something like 7-8 break points and struggled with my backhand, which is not at all like me," said Tsorotiotis, who breezed past his first two opponents Friday 6-0, 6-0. "At this point it's all about playing the top players, like Peter, and others at the '32' last weekend, and from here on out as well. That experience will help me in three weeks when the state tournament begins."
Adam Maryniuk and Matt Harvey are hoping for the same as the No. 2 team for Stevenson, following a quality weekend that ended with the Patriots pair tying for fifth place alongside Gordon/Lew from Highland Park.
"It was a tough adjustment for both of us at the start, coming together as doubles partners, but I really like the feel of it, and I believe both Matt and I are great partners and capable of having a strong final month of the season," said Maryniuk, a junior who has been in Stanhope's lineup at doubles all three seasons.
Harvey, a freshman, began the season at No. 3 singles but recently moved over to join Maryniuk. They earned a fifth-place finish at the Pitchford.
"Playing high school tennis is kind of refreshing compared to playing USTA because it's all about the team, and helping each other out, and not worrying about how a loss might hurt your ranking," said Harvey. "I like that a lot, and I think that if Adam and I continue to improve we can be right there with my brother (Colin) and Komarov at sectionals, then state."
Teammates Josh Cheng and Lukasz Jaworski came back to grab third-place medals at Nos. 3-4 doubles after defeating Lake Forest's Ben Kasbeer/Parker Marsh.
Stevenson's strength at doubles helped them take third overall with 42 points, 4 short of Highland Park. The Scouts ran away from the field with a whopping 68 points.