Jasper Koenen got off to a flying state tennis tournament start Thursday as he dominated three opponents in the heat and sun to easily advance into Friday's round of 16 where he meets Brendon Harris of Edwardsville at tourney host Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.
The St. Charles East star singles player made quick work of each victim who paid the price of facing the four-year veteran, who after his sensational 2013 run to a fourth-place trophy finds himself no longer a stranger to the fans and tournament field.
"Last year I came in here as more of an unknown -- someone who had to prove he belonged -- but this year I feel there are more eyes on me, especially after getting a 3-4 seed," said Koenen, who at 6-feet-5 is always going to be an easy one to find.
The Michigan State-bound Koenen (28-0) says his focus is stronger than ever. With graduation behind him, where he gave a speech at the Sears Centre, not too far from his first-round place of tennis business, all there is to concentrate on is the next three days of competition.
"I am excited for the tournament to begin, and my plan to get in and out of here as quickly as possible, especially on this warm day, seems to be going just fine for me."
During his short stay at Hoffman Estates High School on Thursday, Koenen saw a trio of opponents take just five games. On Friday morning, the three-time state qualifier Harris from Edwardsville will hope to take a bigger bit of Koenen.
There's an air of optimism from a handful of teams in their drive to stay alive at the state tournament.
Doubles teams from Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles North all find themselves in the consolation bracket with the dream of playing into Saturday still fresh on their minds.
The St. Charles North duo of Aaron Amburgey and Grant Spellman (30-7) opened strongly with two victories before dropping a 6-2, 6-0 match to 1-2 seed Hinsdale Central.
"We were in a lot of deuce games with Central, but there's a reason they were given the top seed," said Spellman, who along with his teammate were given a 17-32 seed. "They took advantage of their opportunities, and we didn't."
Added Amburgey: "We were a little sloppy, and maybe we were a little psyched out playing a team like them, but we come back tomorrow with a better focus and see what we can do."
The North Stars will face Lockport (Mike Hasler-Pat Piwoni) at Prospect High School, as will Adam Maris and Ryan Sterling of Batavia (34-5), who went 2-1 in Wheeling Thursday, to advance into the fourth-round against Downers Grove North (Mantas Kisielius-Chandler Downs).
"Those two three-setters in our first two matches could have been played better, but we advanced nonetheless," said Maris when asked about Batavia's victories over 17-32 Vernon Hills, then the same Lockport club St. Charles North will play.
"But we haven't seen anyone as good as our third-round opponent (Edwardsville) and they did a lot of things which gave us trouble, until later on, when we finally figured out how to attack and defend a team like that," added Sterling.
The Bulldogs were unable to crack the 3-4 Tigers (Jack Desse-Logan Ware) who move into the round of 16 today with a dazzling 32-0 record.
Geneva coach John Nickelson liked what he saw from his top team of Ryan Doeckel-John Potts at Buffalo Grove on Thursday as the Vikings duo went 3-1 to advance into Friday's action at Palatine High School against 17-32 seed Ishaan Jaglin-Scott Apmann of Barrington.
"That second round loss to Hinsdale South was to a very good team who played fast and crisp and with a lot of pace, which today was not a very good matchup for my guys," said Nickelson.
"We came back and played very well in our first match in the back draw -- won a lot of good points, and now we'll just see what we've got from here on out."
Teammate Nick Huang went 0-2 at singles to end his tournament stay, while Sam Cheung and Rajiv Patel-O'Connor from IMSA were eliminated after going 1-2.
Marmion sophomore John King, back for the second consecutive year, is done after going 2-2, which included a three-set third-round victory in the consolation bracket of FVC champ, Josh Pudlo from Crystal Lake Central.
Koenen's mates at doubles, George Spoerl and Alexander Winters, bowed out with a 2-2 record.
Defending state champ Hinsdale Central is even with Lake Forest on the top of the team table with 24 points after one day. New Trier (22), Highland Park (18) and Glenbrook North (18) remain close.