Boys tennis: Scouting Lake County

 
By John Phelps
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/26/2015 9:12 PM
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  • Libertyville's Ben VanDixhorn returns a smash in the state finals at Hersey last spring.

      Libertyville's Ben VanDixhorn returns a smash in the state finals at Hersey last spring. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC

CARMEL

Coach: Chris Kannenberg (second season)

Last season: 12-4, second in ESCC meet, fifth in Stevenson sectional

Top returning players: Sr. Kevin Hunt, Sr. Michael Butler, Sr. Matt Hadjis, Sr. Collin Verwijst, Sr. Jason Kappas, Jr. Matt Colbert, Jr. Steven Zemiatis

Notable additions: Fr. Alex Colbert, So. Jonathan Paulson, Fr. Ben Burkett

Season outlook: A year after winning the ESCC, the Corsairs finished second behind Benet last season. Carmel returns its share of talent. Senior Kevin Hunt qualified for state and placed third at No. 1 singles at conference last spring, while senior Michael Butler was part of the runner-up team at No. 1 doubles. Junior Matt Colbert and senior Collin Verwijst were the ESCC's fourth-place team at No. 2 doubles. "(We're) looking for a winning season," coach Chris Kannenberg said. "(Our) goal is to be competitive in conference and sectionals, while qualifying some players for state."

NORTH SUBURBAN PRAIRIE

ANTIOCH

Coach: Jamie D'Andrea (first season)

Last season: 4-4, sixth in NSC meet, fourth in Warren sectional

Top returning players: Jr. Braden Ward, Sr. Jason Mrkonich, Sr. Chase Lacas

Notable additions: So. Brandon Sorenson, Fr. Kyle Boudreau

Season outlook: Numbers are low with conflicting commitments, but two-time state qualifier Braden Ward is back at No. 1 singles. Three-sport athlete Jason Mrkonich and Chase Lacas are also back and add much-needed experience having played doubles together a year ago. Coach Jamie D'Andrea said the tandem's power and strategy will make them difficult to face. With the loss of several seniors, the coach is hoping for a strong surge from the newcomers like sophomore Brandon Sorenson, who is solid technically, and freshman Kyle Boudreau, who is methodical and has showed skills thus far that can rival any upperclassmen. "I think we will be competitive with other schools in the Prairie Division of the NSC, but I'm anticipating that we will struggle with some of the bigger schools as my players get acclimated to varsity tennis," said D'Andrea, who starts her first season as boys varsity coach after having served as Antioch's JV coach for four years and coaching the varsity girls last fall. "I am confident, though, that my boys will improve daily throughout the season. I am looking forward to seeing what this young team can accomplish."

GRANT

Coach: Curt Sheets (first season)

Last season: 12th in NSC meet, fifth in Warren sectional

LAKES

Coach: Bryan Plinske (10th season)

Last season: 6-6 overall, ninth in NSC meet, tie for seventh in Warren sectional

Top returning players: Sr. Aaron Navarro, Sr. Joe Gajda, Sr. Alex Burnett, Jr. Dallan Forbes, Jr. Kevin Thacker

Notable additions: Sr. John Gossman, Jr. Cameron Bradford, Jr. Gavin Good, Jr. Danny Beller, So. Sam Stoy

Season outlook: The goal for every team is usually to qualify as many players as possible for the state tournament. Coach Bryan Plinske, who spent nine years as Antioch's head coach before moving to Lakes, would certainly like to see improvement at tournaments. "We are going to make a run at a division championship," the coach said. Plinske also said the team is more physically fit than he's seen in recent years. "Everyone's fundamentals look very sound," he said. "We've identified areas to work on for each player, and we have the time to work on those areas." The Eagles' first match isn't until April 6 and the focus is on starting strong right out of the gate.

VERNON HILLS

Coach: Doug Gerber (15th yr.)

Last season: 10-4 overall, 6-0 NSC Prairie, tie for seventh in NSC meet, fourth in Stevenson sectional

Top returning players: Jr. Scott Knier, Jr. Zach Kurtzenberger, Jr. Fin Lau, So. Harsha Namburi

Notable additions: Sr. Daniel Lebovitz, Sr. David Levering, So. Akash Setty, So. Hirsch Nangia, Fr. Anmol Parande, Fr. Nikhil Mangtani, Fr. Matthew Nguyen

Season outlook: The Cougars were hit hard last year with six players having graduated from the undefeated Prairie champs. But there is plenty of able-bodied talent ready to pick up the torch and run with it. According to coach Doug Gerber, this could possibly be the youngest squad Vernon Hills has had since the school opened in 2000, as there isn't any returning seniors on the roster. Every singles player returns, so Gerber and the troops will be focusing heavily on their doubles play. "Doubles, doubles, doubles," said the coach. "Competition will once again be tight in the Prairie division and we look to repeat as champs."

WAUCONDA

Coach: Scott Cittadino (18th season)

Last season: tie for seventh in NSC meet, eighth in Stevenson sectional

Top returning players: Sr. Dhruv Patel, Sr. Davis Heck

Notable additions: Jr. Oliver Gallego, Fr. Brian Hackman

Season outlook: The Bulldogs have already gotten off to a flying start, having blanked Zion-Benton 7-0 in dual meet action last week. The Bulldogs look to have a decent mix of returning players, as well as a few talented newcomers to the squad. According to coach Scott Cittadino, Dhruv Patel will play mostly No. 1 doubles this season, while Oliver Gallego and Brian Hackman will battle for the Nos. 1 and 2 singles spots. "Our expectation is to win the Prairie division in the NSC," Cittadino said, "and try and get a few players through to state."

NORTH SUBURBAN LAKE

LAKE ZURICH

Coach: Aaron Rogers (fourth season)

Last season: 10-6 overall, 3-4 NSC Lake, fifth in NSC meet, tie for sixth in Stevenson sectional

Top returning players: Sr. Kevin Kim, Sr. Mike Ewan, Jr. Zach Nading, Jr. Joaquin Ganoza

Notable additions: Sr. Steven Gore, Sr. Michael Madura, Fr. Roberto Guagnelli

Season outlook: Lake Zurich looks like it might endure a few of those proverbial growing pains this season, having graduated five of its top six players, including Thomas Petrovic and Kolton Reitsch at No. 1 doubles and Dave Brown, who claimed fifth place at the NSC meet last spring. "We expect this year's team to be very young and new to varsity," said coach Aaron Rogers. Rogers said there are four sophomores practicing with the varsity team and some will eventually be expected to make an immediate impact on the lineup. The coach also stressed depth as being the most important factor if the Bears want to challenge for an NSC crown, and he'll be looking for the newcomers to fill step up big time. Lake Zurich does have its top 3 returnees that have all dedicated time in the off-season to fine-tuning their strokes, as well as getting stronger, faster, and more aggressive. The coach said the trio has also taken on the challenge of being leaders.

LIBERTYVILLE

Coach: Dan Kiernan

Last season: third in NSC meet, second in Stevenson sectional, ninth in state meet

Top returning players: Sr. Ben VanDixhorn, So. Stefano Tsorotiotis, Jr. Jason Daluga, Sr. Michael Gasick, Sr. Hao Chen, Jr. Julian Janczak

Notable newcomers: Robert Neil, Nihar Phadke, Brennan Walsh, Ken Herman

Season outlook: The Wildcats return a pair of state qualifiers in senior Ben VanDixhorn and sophomore Stefano Tsorotiotis. VanDixhorn, a 6-2 lefty, is signed with Northwestern.

MUNDELEIN

Coach: Brian Packowitz (fifth season)

Last season: 13th in NSC meet, tie for sixth in Stevenson sectional

STEVENSON

Coach: Tom Stanhope (sixth season)

Last season: 9-5, second in NSC meet, first in Stevenson sectional, fifth in state meet

Top returning players: Sr. Colin Harvey, Jr. Ben Bush, So. Matt Harvey, Sr. Adam Maryniuk

Notable additions: Fr. Sam Komis, So. Thales Cavalcanti

Season outlook: The Patriots are certainly no strangers to the state meet. Andrew Komarov graduated but Colin Harvey is back from the duo's doubles state title from last spring. And Stevenson has plenty of depth and versatility all throughout the lineup, which will give coach Tom Stanhope the luxury of moving multiple players between singles and doubles without skipping a beat during a long season. Junior Ben Bush has played singles at state the last two springs. Matt Harvey and Adam Maryniuk played double at state last year. "Our three goals still remain to win conference, qualify the entire team out of a tough sectional and win the state meet," Stanhope said. Sam Komis is a talented freshman, and transfer Thales Cavalcanti adds even more pop to a potent lineup.

WARREN

Coach: Greg Cohen (19th season)

Last season: 7-4, fourth in NSC meet, third in Warren sectional, 31st in state meet

Top returning players: Sr. Samuel Gudeman, Sr. Mike Danos, Sr. Tyler Cash, Jr. Scott Seiler, Jr. Nick Skradski

Notable additions: Jr. Daniel Nystrom, So. Jacob Andersen

Season outlook: Warren lost doubles all-stater and three-time state qualifier John Westerberg and doubles state qualifier Neil Shah to graduation, but the Devils always seem to have plenty of weapons ready to step in and have an immediate impact. Samuel Gudeman, who is a three-time state qualifier in doubles already, leads the charge. Scott Seiler was also a state qualifier in doubles, and Mike Danos has really improved his game in the off-season, according to longtime coach Greg Cohen. "It will be fun to see Gudeman and Seiler playing together," said Cohen. "They used to rule the USTA tournaments that we traveled to when they were young. And Gudeman is attempting to become the first four-time state qualifier in doubles. So I am very happy with the effort by a core of players. They have really worked hard to improve their game." The coach sees Lake Forest, Stevenson, Libertyville and Lake Zurich as the main threats in the North Suburban Lake.

FOX VALLEY FOX

GRAYSLAKE CENTRAL

Coach: Chuck Lawson

Last season: second in Warren sectional

Top returning players: Sr. Ronald Dignadice, Sr. John Knight, Sr. Richard Hutchins, Sr. Rickey Tobey, Jr. Tejas Paruthooli

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