By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
Boys tennis / Scouting sectionals
It's already been a wild two weeks in the tennis world, which was turned upside down with a couple of recent developments when 2011 state singles runner-up Jared Hiltzik of New Trier left the team, as well as his younger brother Aron. And Glenbrook South sophomore Konrad Zieba is out after playing in a USTA Junior Tournament without the blessing of the IHSA. Hiltzik and Zieba were on course to earn the top seeds at the state tournament next weekend, and their absence will have a tremendous influence, not only on the competition, but also the team race.
For now, the talk is centered on qualifying, and players from the area will be competing at three venues beginning this Friday afternoon, knowing a top-four finish sends them into the 64-man field. Here's a brief look at those sites:
When: 1 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. Saturday.
Who to watch: Singles: Brandon Dechter (Carmel), Kevin Hunt (Carmel), Ryan Jump (Mundelein), Jason Brown (Deerfield), Peter Tarwig (Lake Forest), Scott Christian (Lake Forest).
Doubles: St. Viator (Joe Nowakowski-Dan Desio), Carmel (Bryan Hunt-Geoff Butler), Carmel (RJ Paulson-Stephen Feely), Highland Park (Zacko Brint-Danny Wynbrandt), Highland Park (Tom Haile-Andrew Zesser), Lake Forest (Cameron Bagheri-Connor O'Kelly), Lake Forest (Ryan Kennedy-Will Martin).
Match point: The decision of the IHSA two years ago to shuffle the sectional deck continues to impact this particular venue, which has far too many quality doubles teams for just the four guaranteed state spots. "Last year the state moved Lake Forest into this sectional, and now (St. Viator) this year, who has a very good doubles team, and when you look around to see how many very deserving players won't be advancing, it's really very disappointing," said Highland Park coach Steve Rudman. His Giants team of Brint-Wynbrandt (15-1) are the clear favorites here, before rightfully earning one of the top-four seeds next week at the tournament. Rudman hopes to see his No. 2 team grab second place when its over, but strong challenges from Carmel, St. Viator, Lake Forest and Deerfield will make it interesting for all to watch, except for those coaches and families closer to the action. Deerfield coach Josh Leighton is waiting until the last second before announcing his final lineup, with senior Toby Ma in the middle of it all. Leighton has gone most of the season with the 3-time state qualifier at doubles, along with Jack Kasbeer -- but he could change things up, with the hope of maximizing his talent in order to earn valuable points in the team race. Over at singles, this is a two-man race, with Jason Brown (23-4), perhaps now the favorite to win a state title, the clear favorite over Tarwid, and a host of others, including the Carmel duo of Dechter and Hunt, who have done exceptionally well in their rookie seasons.
When: 2 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. Saturday.
Who to watch: Singles: Jeremy Bush (Stevenson, 15-5), Brian Kim (Stevenson, 18-7), Nick Makowiecki (Fremd, 19-6), Maciej Niemczyk (Fremd, 24-2), Ismail Kadyrov (Vernon Hills), Carson Burke (Prospect, 18-12), Anton Levitin (Buffalo Grove)
Doubles: Stevenson (Andrew Komarov-Colin Harvey, 22-3), Stevenson (Dennis Kontorvich-Adam Maryniuk, 9-5), Buffalo Grove (Vlad Zuperman-Ari Kazan, 17-5), Buffalo Grove (Steve Mazzoni-Nick Boustead, 16-7), Fremd (Matt Buesing-Mike Artov, 16-11), Fremd (Erik Rosencrans-Sudeer Vundru, 19-7), Palatine (Kevin Colish-Joe Moslemian).
Match point: Stevenson made its postseason intentions clear after lifting the team trophy at the North Suburban Conference tournament, and doing so on a rare weekend when its star player, Jeremy Bush, finished second at No. 1 to Kristyan Trukov of Warren. "Trukov played great, he was unbeatable, and that happens sometimes, but I was really happy with our overall effort, and the fact that our top two doubles teams won it all, and in doing so, helped us get a little revenge on Lake Forest, which beat us in our dual with them," said Patriots coach Tom Stanhope. Bush will lead a deep, and talented field at singles, with the top five all returning state qualifiers, while Burke and Levitin have bright futures ahead of them. "This is when it gets serious, and for me, I am looking forward to playing really well, getting myself into the state tournament, and helping my team compete for a sectional championship," said the Fremd senior Makowiecki, who along with Niemczyk, went 3-2 at the tournament last spring. The Vikings' duo will have to fend off the NSC champ at No. 2 singles (Kim) and the much improved junior (Kadyrov) -- but the teammates at doubles will have their hands full in a group which should see the top two Patriots' teams finish 1-2. "Both of my teams are quite capable of getting out of this sectional and into the tournament, but as always, were they sit in the draw, and how well they play right from the start is so important to their eventual success," offered BG head coach Kevin Schrammel, who watched his top teams fall in the MSL finals at Nos. 1 and 2 to Barrington in straight sets.
When: 2 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. Saturday
Who to watch: Singles: Vincent Lin (Schaumburg, 14-0), Peter Itskovich (Conant, 15-7), Ben Brito (Schaumburg), Sam Hoogland (Glenbrook South), Will Sauser (Glenbrook North, 10-17), Brian Eirinberg (Glenbrook North, 12-11).
Doubles: Barrington (George Coll-Varun Parekh, 15-6), Barrington (Greg Baker-Akash Khurana), Conant (Connor Saks-Spencer Fang, 16-7), Glenbrook South (Michael Sellitto-Michael Levin), Glenbrook South (Will Lyon-Luke McCanna), Glenbrook North (Bill Angel-Adam Spector, 14-13), Glenbrook North (Miguel Perez-David Zakhodin, 26-3)
Match Point: The headline act here would have been worth the price of admission if Zieba had not taken his ill-advised trip out of town to end his sensational season so abruptly. Now it will be a two-man show between the freshman Lin and his club partner, Hoogland, in what should be the singles final early on Saturday. "I am really excited about competing in my first sectional tournament, for myself, and my team, and if I (do) play Sam, we'll know each other very well, just from playing and hitting with him at the Five Seasons Club in Northbrook," said Lin, who passed his first postseason test with ease after a straight-set victory over Makowiecki to claim an MSL singles title. The new MSL No. 1 has all the weapons, and can make it look effortless as he moves his opponents from the side-to-side, with his well-hit volleys, which he says are the best part of his game. The next two spots will be up for grabs between Conant senior Itskovich, a state qualifier at doubles last season, his MSL rival Brito and more than likely, the duo from Glenbrook North, which won't overwhelm with their overall records, but will compete, thanks in part to a rugged CSL, and non-conference schedule. Where things really get interesting is at doubles, where, after Glenbrook South (Sellitto-Levin), a potential state champ, the fight for the remaining spots will be intense. Varun Parekh and George Coll (Barrington), off of their impressive showing at the MSL tourney, and 9-16 seed at the 32 recently, have to be considered a strong contender to advance into the final, where the affable duo could further enhance their place in the state tournament with a good showing. "We really feel like we're capable of competing with the best, but it's all about performing at a high level when we have the opportunity against great teams like GBS and the other," said Parekh, after he and Coll captured their MSL crown at No. 1 last weekend. GBN's No. 1 (Angel-Spector) which lost 6-3 in the third set to Parekh-Coll earlier is right there, as is the Spartans' No. 2 (Perez-Zahodin), which has the most wins (26) of all the teams here, including its victory in the final at the CSL tourney. Conant (Saks-Fang) are capable of brilliant play when the Cougars duo is on, but they will need to guard against any letdowns in order to see their way clear and into the state tournament.