Boys tennis: Scouting sectionals
CLASS 2Aat Buffalo Grove (10 a.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday)
Guest list: Buffalo Grove, Fremd, Hersey, Palatine, Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Wheeling, Glenbrook North, Glenbrook South.
Lowdown: When Justin Piotrowski's career draws to a close, whether this weekend or at the state tournament next week, it will mark an end to 16 straight years of a Piotrowski playing tennis at Fremd High School. Kristen, Brian and Kevin all starred for the Vikings, as has Justin, and the senior will continue the family tradition at the collegiate level when he plays next fall at Illinois Wesleyan.
"I looked around at playing at a bigger school, but at Wesleyan, I'll get the best of both worlds -- a great education, and the chance to step in and play right away," said Piotrowski, who will major in business with a minor in film (he's already creating short films, which he submits to local festivals). "The director of the theater department is going to create a minor in film, which is basically called film production studies, which, when officially approved by the administration, will have courses in screen writing, photography, videography and directing."
Piotrowski and his doubles partner Chris Stavrou will be in the mix for a top-four sectional finish and a spot in the 2A state tourney beginning on Thursday. They finished third in the MSL tourney last weekend.
"It's a great time of the year right now, and obviously, it would be even better if we can get into the state field in our last year at Fremd," said Piotrowski, who has played at several positions for the Vikings, the last two at No. 1 for coach Matt Duncan.
The Vikings', along with their counterparts from Prospect and Hersey, will look to take advantage of a recent development at state power Glenbrook North, who saw its No. 1 doubles team split when Austin Klapman left the team just after the Pitchford 32.
The loss of a potential top-eight team at state may have dashed the hopes of a state title run by the Spartans, and it also opened the door for the first-class duo of Sebastien DesRoberts/Rohan Gupta (Glenbrook South), now the clear favorite to capture the doubles crown here.
With that said, the chance is there for others improve dramatically, and along with Fremd, the teams from Prospect (Mike Stanford/Peter Velic) as well as Hersey (Jason Deans/Jace Coffaro) will try to take advantage.
In singles, two of the best in the state -- Mark Wu (17-1) and Nick Marino (25-1) -- ensure plenty of points for Glenbrook North as they vie for first and second place, with a host of others fighting it out for the two remaining state bids.
Hersey senior Aidan Burke, second last weekend at No. 2 singles in the MSL tourney, will be one of those looking to battle into a top-four finish.
"I feel that I'm playing the best tennis of the season, and if I continue to do so at sectionals, I'll have a very good chance of going to state," said Burke.
at Cary-Grove (noon Friday, 8:30 a.m. Saturday)
Guest list: Barrington, Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake South, Lake Zurich, Stevenson, Crystal Lake Central, Deerfield, Highland Park, Prairie Ridge.
Lowdown: This will be a fiercely competitive sectional, with three conference powers meeting on Fox Valley Conference turf.
The youth of Barrington will face star-filled, veteran lineups from Highland Park and Stevenson.
"We're excited about sectionals, and look forward to competing against some quality opponents, and if we come out and play well right from the very start, then some good things can happen for us," said Barrington coach John Roncone, whse team won its fifth consecutive MSL title.
Barrington conference champions Bradley Yu (18-4) and Dylan Er (21-4) will be chasing accomplished players such as Jacob Edelchik (Highland Park, 18-1) and a dynamic pair from Stevenson, Zach Kim and Sam Komis, who appear to have raised their level of play of late.
The Broncos doubles teams -- Aryan Sharma/Matt D'Amore (12-5) and Kyle Shuff/Joe Wolff (9-2) -- are also MSL champions and must find a way through a trio of terrific teams to advance.
Potential top-four state seed Highland Park, Jeremy Learner/Brandon Lew (6-2) will be tough. So will Stevenson, beginning with its No. 1, Matt Harvey/Brian Weisberg (14-4) looking to add yet another state appearance to their resume. The Pats' No. 2 team of Ozzie Viswanathan/Arjun Sheelvanth 15-6 will also be in the mix.
Add the FVC champion from Prairie Ridge (Daniel Lamar/Patrick Nasta) and it's going to be very interesting, to say the least.
at Schaumburg (noon Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday)
Guest list: Addison Trail, Conant, Elk Grove, Hoffman Estates, Lake Park, Maine West, Schaumburg, Maine East, Maine South.
Lowdown: Conant's tennis program has been a force these past two seasons when the postseason arrives. The Cougars enter this weekend having won two consecutive sectional trophies, and a third is within its grasp now that coach Dave Koleno's team is at full strength.
"We had a couple of our starters away last weekend for the MSL tourney, and we did well without them, thanks to our depth," said Koleno. "But having everyone back puts us in position to make a serious run at another sectional title."
The Cougars coach will count on a veteran unit to hold off its likely closest challenger, Maine South, with 2016 state qualifiers Vera Iyer (14-4) at No. 1 singles, and Nico Rosas and Arjun Rao, who have sparkled at Nos. 1 and 2 doubles, with new partners at their respective positions.
Rosas, who went to the state tournament last year along with Nikhil Modak, is 13-1 this spring alongside Kaahan Motwani. Rao, who advanced to state with Ryo Ishiyama, has gone 18-8 with Michael Kim.
Kolena sees the best singles player at this venue as the No. 1 from Maine South, Danilo Kovacevic. He went 4-2 at state last season, and is ranked No. 6 in his age group in the state of Illinois. Markos Christoforou of Elk Grove and Daniel Lee of Hoffman Estates, third and fourth at the MSL tourney, are in the mix, as well as the sophomore duo of Tyler Ferengul (23-7) and Alex Huang from Lake Park.
Schaumburg's top doubles team of Kevin Eberhardt/Max Brito, who handled chores at No. 1 and 2 singles a year ago, would like nothing more than to advance out of their own sectional before the home fans, and are quite capable of doing so. The Lake Park team of Nick Sapic/Miles DeWaele recently put together by coach Tim Martin offers yet another viable challenger for a top-four finish, after the Lancers pair recently won the top prize at the Lake Park Invite.
CLASS 1Aat Carmel (11 a.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday)
Guest list: St. Viator, Burlington Central, Carmel Catholic, Elgin Academy, St. Edward, Vernon Hills, Beacon Academy, North Shore-Country Day, Northridge Prep.
Lowdown: After its second-place finish last weekend at the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament, St. Viator has a chance at taking top team honors here.
Though the Lions were unable to earn their first league title since 2008 last weekend, their solid work there, and again in a final regular-season tuneup at Buffalo Grove Invite on Tuesday, has provided the confidence needed to succeed here.
"We knew after losing just two seniors from our team last season, and with a lot of experience back in our lineup, this could be a very good year for St. Viator tennis," said the Lions' veteran No. 1, Kyle Borst. "I know I learned plenty from playing in the toughest sectional in the state last year at Highland Park, and now that we're competing at 1A, we all feel we have a very good chance this weekend."
His teammate at No. 2 singles, junior Matt Firestone (14-10) agrees with Borst's assessment.
"Because Kyle has had to play everyone's No. 1 these past two seasons, his advice on how to prepare and play singles after playing at doubles last year has really helped me a lot, and that's the way it is all throughout the team," said Firestone.
In doubles, the Lions came away with third-place medals at conference from Jack Neubauer/Jason Vivit (12-10) and Nick Gattuso/Jack Aiello (15-9).
"The quality of our opponents has been really good, so even if we've lost some matches along the way, we're all gaining the type of experience needed coming into this time of the season," said Gattuso, a senior.
The Lions' biggest push appears to be coming from Vernon Hills, where coach Doug Gerber has assembled a solid unit, and Carmel Catholic.
Vernon Hills' main strength comes at doubles, as Gerber's Nos. 1 and 2 teams have enjoyed success against their counterparts from St Viator. and Carmel Catholic.
"My No. 1 team of Cole Guillaume/Harsha Namburi (14-7) have wins over the No. 1 team at Carmel, and the No. 2 from St. Viator," said Gerber, "while our No. 2 (Matt Nguyen/Nikhil Mangtani, 10-5) have defeated Viator's No. 1 and Carmel's No. 2. Plus our strength of schedule should help both of them this weekend."
Vernon Hills finished the season at 17-6, its best record in program history.