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Boys tennis / Scouting the MSL tournament

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By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent

Boys tennis / Scouting the MSL tournament

Tourney host: Schaumburg

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When: Thursday-Saturday

Where: Schaumburg (No. 1 singles and doubles, half of the No. 4 doubles), Hoffman Estates (No. 2 singles and doubles, half of the No. 4 doubles), Fremd (No. 3 singles and doubles)

Finals: noon Saturday at Schaumburg

Top seedsNo. 1 singles: Mack Galvin (28-3), Connor Sacks (16-4), Ishaan Jaglin (Barrington, 14-12), Eric Pohl (14-8).

No. 1 doubles: Buffalo Grove's Peter Georgiades/Anton Levitin (6-0), Prospect's Sam Tambeaux/Ralph Tenuta (17-9).

OutlookWith remarkable staying power, Fremd's Eric Pohl has been a constant in the Vikings program since stepping onto the courts. The senior has taken on the pressure and responded very well from the onset, beginning in his freshman season when he and Sudeer Vundru won an MSL title at No. 3 doubles, and last year, when along with Jinwoo Oak, the four-year standout earned a third straight MSL crown, this time at No. 1 doubles.

"It's hard to believe my four years are just about coming to and end -- this season seems like it just began. But it's been filled with a lot of great memories on the team side, as well as individually, especially during my sophomore year," said Pohl.

As the Vikings' No. 3 singles player behind the gifted one-two punch of Nick Mackowiecki and Maciej Niemcyzk during his sophomore year, Pohl left most of his opponents in the dust as he proved to be a dominant force in the Vikings' run to a MSL West title. One week before the conference tournament, Pohl won the final match of the day against Barrington to clinch the division, then, seven days later, put an exclamation point on a 20-2 season by defeating Barrington's Ishaan Jaglin to clinch a tournament and MSL championship.

"Those last two weeks I'll never forget, especially when it helped the team so much, but it got even better a week later, when I qualified into the state tournament with Sudeer," said Pohl.

It's been a family affair on the courts for Pohl, who watched his older sisters Suzanne and Shannon star while at Prospect in two sports, while their brother was just beginning to swing a racket.

Suzanne went on to earn a fifth-place finish at doubles with Margaret Vida during the 1991-92 season, while Shannon excelled in badminton, rising up to be the No. 1 women's singles player in the United States.

"I starting hitting for real when I was about 6 years old, and in fact, my very first serious USTA match was against Connor Sacks."

Sacks is a two-time state qualifier and standout at Conant.

After initially getting accepted to the Coast Guard Academy, a back injury during the off-season nixed that plan. After going through an appeals process, Pohl eventually was reinstated. But during that same he visited Augustana College and found the Rock Island school was a terrific fit.

"Playing tennis opened the door at both places to be sure, and while I am leaning towards attending Augustana, I've got about two weeks to make my final decision," Pohl said.

Pohl find himself in a very strong group at No. 1 in this weekend's MSL tournament.

Galvin, the reigning MSL champ, was the clear top seed. But Pohl's recent straight-sets victory over Sacks extended a win streak to five and made a significant impression around the league to help solidify a top-four seed in a talented group.

"Eric has a real hunger for the game, and he's put the in the extra time and work necessary to become a difference-maker for us, and in the MSL," says Fremd coach Matt Duncan. "The best thing about him is even though he's our best talent on the team, he still conducts himself with a lot of class, and is always positive, and his desire is second to none. He's one of those kids I will miss, and so will the program."

The Vikings and the rest of the league will likely be chasing Barrington. The Broncos have plenty of firepower at doubles and head into the tourney as a slight favorite.

Coach John Roncone's Barrington doubles teams entered Thursday with a combined 54-19 overall record, including a dazzling 27-1 in the MSL. His tandems at No. 2 through 4 have gone 22-0 against the MSL.

Matt Mulligan-Vijay Tripuraneni (No. 2) are 6-0, while Henry Kleist-Tino Chiambas (No. 3) and the No. 4 team of Nick Arder and Ryan Cooper are both 8-0.

"It's been a very good season thus far, now the hope is for us to come out and play our best tennis in order to give us a chance to win it all," said Roncone.

First-year Prospect coach Tom Kujawa was as upbeat as his coaching counterpart on the eve on the tournament for the East Division champion Knights.

"Things could not have gone better in my first year," Kujawa said. "The team handled themselves like gentlemen on and off the court, and played with a lot of class. Their dedication and hard work helped put us through and atop the MSL East, and my hope is this will help motivate future players here at Prospect."

Scouting the East Suburban Catholic ConferenceTourney host: Marian Catholic

When: Noon on Thursday, 9 a.m. on Saturday

Lowdown: Benet cruised through the field this spring to win the regular season title, but health concerns for the Redwings could directly effect their chances of extending that success another year. Carmel is the league's defending champion.

Benet senior Noah Read is one of the top players in the conference but is nursing a sore knee. His teammate Ryan Marshall, one-half of the best No. 1 doubles team in the league, is less than 100 percent healthy, which gives hope to the host Spartans and others an opportunity to compete more evenly with coach Michael Hand's Benet team.

If he able to play, Read will be the No. 2 seed behind defending champ Kyle Scheffers (Marian Catholic). Carmel junior Kevin Hunt and Jake Giessler of Joliet Catholic round out the top four.

St. Viator senior Jacob Nottoli, who is 3-5 against the rest of the league, hopes to end up in the thick of the No. 1 singles hunt. Coach Alex Bocian led the Lions to a 4-4-0 record in the ESCC during his first year in charge.

"I won't put anything past Jacob this weekend because he's such a hard worker and quick learner," said Bocian, "and he'll battle his opponents right until the end."

In doubles, Bocian and Hand agree the Benet team of Marshall and freshman Pat McGuigan is the one to watch if healthy. Marian Catholic's Sam Roche/Paul Lamb earned the No. 2 seed.

Bocian likes what he's seen from his top team of Ryan Abuel and Jack Neubauer, and with the pair coming off of a strong performance on Monday against Benet 2013 state qualifiers Stephen Kovach/Kevin Burns, things are looking brighter for the Lions pair.

"Those two have a couple of very good wins this year against big school opponents, and like Jacob, they just battle like crazy, so nothing would really surprise me from here on out," said Bocian.

Abuel finished sixth in the conference tourney last season as the Lions' No. 1 singles player.

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