Benet wrapped up yet another regular-season boys tennis conference title with its 4-1 win over St. Viator on a steamy Monday afternoon at the Forest View Tennis Club in Arlington Heights.
The Redwings finished play in the East Suburban Catholic Conference with an 8-0-0 record, two wins clear of runners-up Marian Catholic and Joliet Catholic.
Contact information ( * required )
Benet now focuses on the conference tournament to be held this weekend at Marian Catholic.
"We like our chances there, but we've got to get healthy in order to fight off Marian, JC and Carmel in order to win it all," said Benet coach Michael Hand.
The Redwings were top player Noah Read as well as Riley Marshall, who along with freshman Pat McGuigan forms the likely top No. 1 doubles seed in the league tourney.
"Noah tweaked his knee a little bit, and it's just real sore right now, but hopefully we'll have him back for conference," said Hand. "Riley could have gone today, but he's not quite 100 percent so it was better to get him ready for the weekend as well."
Hand moved McGuigan into Read's spot in the lineup at No. 1, then pushed No. 2 team Stephen Kovach/Kevin Burns up a spot to take on Ryan Abuel/Jack Neubauer (4-4-0).
St. Viator pushed the Redwings into a tie-breaker in the first set before eventually falling 10-8 (7-6). Kovach and Burns put away their opponents with a 6-2 second-set triumph.
"I said before those two guys can, and will play with anyone," said first-year St. Viator coach Alex Bocian. "They showed it today against a very good doubles team, which should go a long way building their confidence as we head into the most important final weeks of the season.
Bocian's top two singles players met a stone wall in McGuigan and Pete Mannebach, who recorded straight-set wins over their counterparts from St. Viator.
McGuigan, who was firmly established himself in USTA play before joining the Redwings, defeated senior Jacob Nottoli, 6-0, 6-1. Mannebach handled Kyle Borst, 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2 singles.
"The transition from playing almost exclusively at singles in USTA to doubles in high school has been a challenge, but having a partner like (Marshall) has made things a lot easier for me," said McGuigan, who went 5-0 with Marshall in conference play.
Despite the loss, the Purdue-bound Nottoli remains upbeat.
"Last year, playing as our No. 2 , the challenge wasn't as great as it is this year, when every time you go out, there's another top player on the other side of the court," Nottoli said. "The speed of play is much quicker, your opponent is better able to take advantage of your weaknesses, and the footwork of most of the top guys is very good.
"But playing against all of them has helped get me ready. This weekend there's several good players at No. 1, and I'll look to go out and play my best, then see what happens."
Nottoli was fourth last season in the ESCC at No. 2 singles.
"With so many first-year players in our starting lineup, it's great to have a fantastic leader around like Jacob, who is always there to help and encourage everyone, and to lead by example on and off the court," said Bocian. "This has become a really tight knit group, and one that's fun to be around, whether on the courts, or away doing volunteer work."
Last week, St. Viator participated in the Feed My Starving Children program.
At No. 2 doubles, Benet's Jack Armonda and Kyle Hand topped John Jodoin and Sean Culm 6-0, 6-0.
The lone win of the day for the host Lions came at No. 3 doubles, where freshmen Jason Vivin and senior Jack Madden held off Luca Valentino and Brad Dawson 6-3, 6-4.
"Those two haven't been together very long," said Bocian of Vivin/Madden, "but they just might surprise at the ESCC tournament."