On paper this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for a Glenbard South tennis team that was hit hard by graduation last spring.
But that didn't stop the Raiders from claiming four titles on Saturday to edge Timothy Christian 59-56 and claim the Metro Suburban Conference championship in Glen Ellyn. Junior Brendan Colgan claimed top honors at No. 1 singles and the Raiders also claimed three of the four doubles titles.
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"Isn't that something?" asked Raiders coach Mark Conrad, who has guided the program to nine league titles in 11 years, including three out of four since joining the MSC. "This is in what I would term my rebuilding year. We graduated seven of 11 starters last year, and with Timothy having the majority of their team back, preliminarily we knew it would be tough."
But Glenbard South hung tough with Timothy Christian during the regular season, dropping a 4-3 dual meet and then entering Saturday's conference meet trailing the Trojans just 29-28. The Trojans picked up singles crowns from Justin Rhiner at No. 2 and Jack Wells at No. 3, but it was not enough to hold off the Raiders after Colgan bested Elmwood Park's David Wolk 6-4, 6-3 in the finals and the Raiders followed that up with wins in No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 doubles.
"Last year I got third place, so I worked a ton in the off-season and I really worked on my serve and my net game," said Colgan, now 13-4 on the year with a tough Naperville North sectional field on the horizon. "I played aggressive and it really worked out well today."
The top-seeded Colgan jumped ahead of No. 2 Wolk 4-1 in the first set. But the freshman, who had lost in three sets in the regular season to Colgan, used a service break to close to within 4-3 before Colgan used a strong service game to close out the set 6-4 and then complete the sweep.
"I hit good serves to his backhand and forced him to make mistakes and I pressured him at the net too," Colgan said.
"I'm looking forward to sectional. I'm going to give it my all and hopefully get to state and represent the Raiders well."
Glenbard South needed every point it could get to pull out the team win, but the league title basically came down to first doubles, where Timothy Christian was surprised in the first round by Fenton and had to settle for fifth place. Glenbard South sophomores Jared Schwarz and Avi Panjwani, meanwhile, outlasted the Fenton duo of Irwin Lavric and Val Flores 6-2, 6-7 (7-4), 6-4 to become MSC champs.
"We won three out of four doubles championships and that turned it," Conrad said. "That and the first-round hiccup by Timothy Christian was the difference. I'm just so proud of them."
At second doubles the Trojans' Connor VanderBrug and Jared Rhiner took first after edging Glenbard South 6-3, 7-6 in the finals, while the Raiders picked up titles from Matt Harrington and Ganesh Uppalapu at third doubles and from Neal Choksi and Alex Gallo at fourth doubles.
Justin Rhiner, who will team with DeHaan when he switches to doubles for the sectionals, breezed to the No. 2 singles title. After blanking Riverside-Brookfield 6-0, 6-0 in the semis, he bested James Zandstra of Illiana Christian 6-0, 6-3 in the finals.
"I was undefeated (in conference) and I feel like I'm putting some good pace on the ball," the Trojans senior said. "My serve is doing well and I'm able to hit some good defensive shots as well. I haven't gone to a third set yet in conference, but it feels good to get it done and get some points for the team."
The title for Wells at third singles did not come quite as easy. He lost the first set to the Raiders' Robert Ciechowski before prevailing 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. Wells had no reason to panic after the first set as he had dropped the opening set during a dual meet this season before eventually beating his Glenbard South counterpart.
"I just started doing better footwork and focusing more on the ball," said Wells, who claimed his first MSC title. "It took a while to get warmed up, but I knew I could come back because I did it before.
"I had a lot more confidence (after winning that second set)."