Ben VanDixhorn made his statement to the boys tennis state tournament committee for a highly sought-after 3-4 seed with a three-set victory over teammate Stefano Tsorotiotis to capture the singles crown in Saturday's Stevenson sectional, held at the Vernon Hills Athletic Complex.
Stevenson won the team trophy, finishing ahead of Libertyville 21-14n Next were Mid-Suburban League champion Barrington (10), with Vernon Hills rounding out the top four with 7 points.
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VanDixhorn, a junior who'd breezed through the competition on Friday and Saturday before meeting up with his terrific freshman teammate, opened strongly with a 6-1 first-set triumph before watching Tsorotiotis (24-3) to climb back into the final before VanDixhorn closed things out 6-1.
"It's been a very good last couple of weeks, beginning at the Deerfield Invite, then the NSC tournament last weekend, and now the sectionals (here)," VanDixhorn said. "After going through a physically and demanding group of players, I feel like I am ready for what lies ahead at the state tournament, and a hopeful 3-4 seed."
VanDixhorn (30-4) has lost to the likely 1-2 seed, Peter Tarwid (Lake Forest) twice this season, including a long three-setter in the NSC final. The The Wildcats standout says he isn't fazed by the two losses to the Scouts' big senior.
"I was at match point with Peter last weekend, so I know I am ready to play with best," said VaDixhorn, "and sometimes getting those type of losses is the best thing to prepare you in advance of the tournament."
Earlier, VanDixhorn rolled past Stevenson's Benjamin Bush in the semifinals, but the Patriots sophomore came back to grab third-place with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Carmel's Kevin Hunt. The Corsairs junior becomes the first state qualifier for his school since Parker Ross in 1999 and 2000.
"We're all very happy and proud of Kevin this weekend," said Carmel coach Chris Kannenburg. "He's come close the past two seasons, in fact, losing to Benjamin Bush here last year to end his chances. But he battled hard out here yesterday, and came back to win four-straight games to get past a really fine young player in Brian Weisberg (Stevenson) to finally reach that finish line."
In doubles, it was all Stevenson in the finals.
The Patriots' top team, Colin Harvey/Andrew Komarov, defeated the Patriots' No. 2 team, Adam Maryniuk/Matt Harvey 6-0, 6-2 to win a second consecutive sectional title.
"We're ready to go and anxious to get started on Thursday, but we know there's a lot of work still to do before we see the likes of Lake Forest and Hinsdale Central," said Harvey, in reference to the mention of two of their losses during the season. "All the top teams have a loss or two, but it doesn't matter from here on out because for Andrew and myself, our focus is only on one opponent at a time, and the rest will take care of itself."
The Patriots (22-3) should be in the running for a 1-2 seed along with Pitchford and sectional champion Hinsdale Central (Lope Adelakun/Chase Hamilton).
Maryniuk-Harvey started well Friday, using a late third-set rally to upend Barrington's Ishaan Jaglin/Scott Apmann to reach the finals against their high-profile teammates.
The tandem from Barrington (10-6) later needed another three sets (6-1, 5-7, 6-3) to beat Vernon Hills' David Dobrik/Nikita Lunkov in the third-place match.
Against the Patriots, the Broncos duo was seemingly closing in on a place in the finals, leading the Pats 4-2 in the third, and on serve.
But the Patriots won the all-important seventh game, with Harvey hitting one crosscourt gem after another while Maryniuk was nearly unstoppable at the net to bring the two all the way back after breaking Apmann, then Jaglin to make it 5-4.
Stevenson's team sealed the nearly 2½-hour match with Maryniuk hitting two winners at the net along with the match point winner.
"That Stevenson No. 2 team is very good, and when they're playing like they did down the stretch, I would venture a guess they can play with almost everyone," said Barrington coach John Roncone. "It was also a very good match for us, too.
"Credit to both Ishaan and Scott for playing at a very high level, and making (their opponents) play at their best in order to win the match. Now we'll see where we end up with the tournament committee, which we believe should be a 17-32 seed."
Dobrik-Lunkov (25-6) were still sky high after a sensational three-set victory over Barrington's Matt Mulligan-Vijay Tripuraneni on Friday to clinch a spot in the state tournament field.
"It was easily the highlight of our season thus far," said Dobrik, now a two-time state qualifier.
"When you look back to that first weekend of the season," said Lunkov, "when we beat a very good Glenbrook North two-team at the Liberty Bell, I don't think either one of us had an idea we'd be playing in the state tournament next week." at at Highland Park: The biggest and best result of the season so far came for the Buffalo Grove doubles team of Peter Georgiades-Anton Levitan (27-4) and singles-playing teammate Alan Fijalkowski.
All advanced into the state tournament following a wonderful weekend of play at the rugged Highland Park sectional.
Geogiades-Levitan captured third place after defeating the hosts' No. 2 team of Eli Schneider/Teddy Dunn (19-11), while Fijalkowski fell to sophomore Nick Zazove (Highland Park) in his third-place contest.
The Giants won the team title, outscoring Central Suburban League rival Deerfield 23-18. Buffalo Grove placed third with 11 points.
"Both of my teams had rough second-round opponents, especially Peter and Anton, who had to beat Palatine (Leo Moslemian/David Chon) in order to qualify," said Buffalo Grove coach Michael Naughton, " and that wasn't an easy thing to do when you consider they have played them a number of times this season."
BG's pair outlasted the Pirates 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to book a second consecutive state appearance.
"It's never easy beating someone when you've beaten them 3-4-5 times in a season, and when it's a big rival from your conference," said Levitan.
"They played so well, especially in that first set," said Georgiades, "so we knew we were in for long one if we wanted to play next weekend."
Fijalkowski (18-11) surprised Naughton after his top player dropped his second set on Friday to Tim Klabjan (Deerfield) when the two came together prior to the third and final set. "Alan is so independent, and I really try to leave him alone in between games, and sets," Naughton said. "But after he lost, he came over and he really needed me to let him know he would be OK, and that everyone was there for him and it was time to go get that third set.
"He went out and did so, and now he's joining our dubs team."
The Highland Park team of David Aizenberg/Max Gordon (18-7) likely solidified a 5-8 seed after sweeping through the competition, including Deerfield (Chris Casati/Niko Wasilewicz, 24-9) in the championship match.
"We've known each other a long time, and that's been a big plus playing in a high profile program that goes out and competes against all of the top doubles team during the weekend, and in our conference, and it's a big reason that Max and I we're ready for this sectional as well," said Aizenberg, who last year was a 17-32 seed along with Dunn.
Friday marked the end to a marvelous four-year career by Carson Burke of Prospect, who lost his state qualifying match to Zazove, 6-2, 6-1, denying the Michigan State-bound Burke of a third state tournament appearance.
at Oak Park-River Forest: For the second time in as many years, Maine West will send a doubles team to the state tournament. One year after Dominick Budzik and George Stoitzev stunned the field at Oak Park-River Forest, the team of Patrick Cruj and Henry Nguyen did the same after defeating Elmwood Park (Halir/Curcio) 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to earn a spot in next week's 64-man state field.
"What a great weekend for Maine West tennis," said Warriors coach Derrick Swistak after watching his team turn things around in a hurry after a first-set defeat. "Both teams were very scrappy, but after that first set I told the guys to get back to playing simple, and not go for so many big shots, and to increase our first serve percentage. They did just that, and it was the difference in that state qualifying match."
Earlier in the day on Friday, Cruj had to deal with a severe migraine, which become so unbearable, that Swistak considered having to pull his team out of the tournament."
"Luckily, after we got some ibuprofen in him, and after some rest, he felt well enough to give it a go," Swistak said. "But it was sure a nervous time for them, and the rest of us."
The Warriors tandem dropped to 14-5 this season after falling in the third-place match to Peter Denke-Nick Salgia of Maine South.
"We were fortunate to be in a sectional that allowed us a chance, and Patrick and Henry took full advantage of that opportunity, and we're very proud of both of them," said Swistak.
at Glenbrook South: Mid-Suburban League singles champion Mack Galvin of Rolling Meadows earned a second straight trip to the state tournament -- and very nearly won a sectional title.
Galvin, a sophomore, fell 6-3, 6-7 (4), 3-6 to Glenbrook North freshman Mark Wu in the championshp match.
Wu's effort helped lift Glenbrook North to the team title with 25 points, ahead of Glenbrook South (11) and Fremd (10).
Fremd senior Eric Pohl also advance in singles with a fourth-place finish; he fell to Glenbrook North's Will Sauser in the third-place match.
David Zakhodin/Miguel Perez of Glenbrook North defeated a tandem of teammates to win doubles.
Conant's Connor Sacks/Matt Meyers earned a spot in the state tournament field with a fourth-place finish.