Boys tennis / Sectional scouting, Northwest
Boys tennis / Sectional scouting, Northwest
Boys tennis players intent on advancing to the state tournament will need to pur forth their best efforts in this weekend's sectional meets. The importance of a good start on Friday at five sectional venues involving teams from the Mid-Suburban League plus St. Viator, Maine West and Leyden cannot be overstated, as a loss in an opening-round match essentially means the season is over.
The top four finishers at singles and doubles qualify for the state field, and there's plenty of drama ahead.
at Cary-GroveWhen: 2 p.m. Friday, 9 p.m. Saturday
Guest list: Barrington,, Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, Johnsburg, Marian Central, McHenry, Prairie Ridge, Woodstock North, Woodstock
Setting the stage: The Mid-Suburban champs, Barrington, will be without their league brethren as most of its company hails from the Fox Valley Conference -- including champion Prairie Ridge, which eked out a close one against rival Jacobs last weekend to capture the FVC crown. John Roncone's team enters as the favorite, but the long-time Broncos coach is taking nothing for granted. "We've got a great bunch of boys who have worked hard, and played well all season, but they all know in order to get what they are after, they will have to be at their best, right from the start on Friday, because there's a lot of very good teams and players at this sectional," Roncone said after coachng his group to a third straight MSL title last weekend.
There are at least a half-dozen players at singles who could claim ownership on the top four state spots, including the Broncos' best player, MSL runner-up Ishaan Jaglan (20-6). His teammate Mohammed Walji (22-3) just earned his second straight MSL singles crown. Both will face some strong competition from FVC runner-up Hayden Dzurisin (Prairie Ridge) in addition to Cary-Grove's Curt Norton, who at one time was 16-1 this spring for coach Amanda Schuetzle.
Senior Kyle Venet (Cary-Grove), who's handled the chores at No. 1, is another name to remember. So is Ian Brzeski (Marian Central) who came away with a third-place medal from the ESCC conference tournament, and Patrick Nasta (Prairie Ridge), the FVC champ at No. 2 singles.
Scott Apmann and Matt Mulligan (Barrington, 17-3) hope to win once again after an impressive run to a MSL crown at No. 1 doubles a week ago.
"We're excited not only about sectionals, but for our chance to advance to the state tournament," said Mulligan.
The FVC champion from Prairie Ridge, Jared Priesz/Gil Anonzie, upset top seed Jacobs to help fuel the Wolves to their league crown and figure to give Barrington a good test.
The Broncos' Vijay Tripuraneni and Zach Hennenfent (15-3) have sparkled all season long, including a seventh-place finish at the prestigious Pitchford 32 and ending an MSL title last weekend.
"We feel we're playing well right now, and with an opportunity to get to state here for us right now, we're not going to let up at sectionals," said Hennenfent, a senior who was the No. 2 singles champ in the MSL a year ago.
at DeerfieldWhen: 1 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday
Guest list: Deerfield, Fremd, Glenbrook North, Glenbrook South, Hersey, Highland Park, Prospect, Rolling Meadows, St. Viator, Wheeling
Singles standouts: Mack Galvin (Rolling Meadows), Jacob Edelchik (Highland Park), Rohan Gupta (Glenbrook South), Nick Marino (Glenbrook North) Noah Rosenblatt (Deerfield), Mark Wu (Glenbrook North), Nick Zazove (Highland Park).
Doubles: Hersey (Owen Connor/Patryk Kot), Prospect (Joe Hafertepe/Nick Marino), Rolling Meadows (Tejo Nutalapati/Neil Krzeski), Wheeling (Jayaram Yeluri/Eugene Yakubovich), Deerfield (Chris Casati/Niko Wasiliwicz), Glenbrook North (David Zakhodin/Miguel Perez), Glenbrook North (Will Sauser/David Klapman), Glenbrook South (Gavin McClanahan/Bryce McClanahan), Highland Park (Max Gordon/David Alzenberg), Highland Park (Brandon Lew/Teddy Dunn).
Setting the stage: Everyone here drew a short stick when it comes to advancing to state. "We have a sectional with at least 7 kids in singles who are deserving of not only making it to state, but also seeded there, and a doubles field all jammed up with great teams, some of which will be staying home next weekend," said Steve Rudman, Highland Park's coach, who knows if both he and Jeff Jordan (Glenbrook North) can somehow guide their entire teams through the sectional, it could be the difference between a top-three finish in the team race, or a top-ten placement.
Junior Mack Galvin (Rolling Meadows, 28-2) finds himself in the middle of it all as the three-time MSL champ looks to navigate his way through a top-heavy singles bunch to earn his third straight appearance at the tournament.
"I've been looking forward to this weekend and have directed all of my effort, resources and training in preparation of making it out of this sectional, and although there's way too much talent here, the fact is, you have to play the best in order to be one of the best," Galvin said. "So I just figured it is what it is, and I'll have to come out on Friday and play the best that I can right from the start."
Glenbrook North soph Wu has beaten Rosenblat twice, while his teammate Marino (20-4) will likely be slated just behind Galvin with the 5-6 seed.
In doubles, a host of clubs from the MSL will try to make progress against the top seed from Glenbrook North (22-0), with Deerfield, Highland Park's No. 1 team (Gordon-Alzenberg, 15-5) and Glenbrook South rounding out the top four.
"This group is very tricky because of direct and indirect losses, and with just how many great teams are here, many of which could be playing on the third day of the tournament next weekend," said Jordan.
"I wonder if there's ever been a No. 2 doubles champion from the Pitchford (his No. 2, Sauser-Klapman) that didn't qualify for state?," asked Jordan, referring to his Sauser/Klapman pairing. "Everyone here will have to really play well, maybe get a little help here and there, then hope for the best."
at New TrierWhen: 2 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday
Guest list: Maine West, Evanston, Loyola, Maine East, Maine South, New Trier, Notre Dame, Niles North, Niles West.
Setting the stage: With all due respect to Tad Eckert, New Trier's coach, this in not the usual Trevians tennis juggernaut. Injuries plus a young roster will make it difficult for this year's edition to make a run at a top-three trophy at state. However, there's plenty of talent still around to advance all four Trevs to state.
"Were still in flux this late in the season. Scott Bickel (2014 state qualifier) has been hurt most of the season and just started playing, and we haven't been able to lock into a set lineup all season," Eckert said. "But we'll get it together and still should get everyone through."
The clear choices at the top of the singles field are Blake Oslan, the a returning state qualifier from North Shore Country Day who went 2-2 one year ago at the tournament, and Maine South freshman Danielo Kovacevic. He won the Central Suburban South tourney one week ago to push his overall record to 22-3, and has also beaten Nick Hamburger from New Trier.
Maine West coach Derrick Swistak hopes his double state team from a year ago, Patrick Czuj/Henry Nguyen (10-3), has another run in them this year to qualify again and give the program a third straight state appearance.
"It's a tough road for those guys, but they went through it last year, and I know they're looking forward to the challenge this time around," said Swistak.
Czuj, a senior, is off to Pepperdine next fall, while teammate, Miguel Hernandez will attend DePaul. Hernandez and Jackson Torkelson make up the Warriors' No. 2 tandem.
The future of the Warriors looks solid, and the one-two punch of Jason Elangical (freshman) and Jeffrey Celenza (sophomore) will get their feet wet this weekend with the hope that the experience will go a long way in their development.
"Jason has been a highlight for our team because of his excellent attitude and work ethic, plus his dedicaton to the game and his teammates, and Jeff has been equally impressive with the way he legs balls out that seemingly are winners for his opponents," Swistak said. "He like to play out points, both methodically and carefully.
at SchaumburgWhen: 2 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. Saturday
Guest list: Conant, Dundee-Crown, Elgin Academy, Elgin, Elgin St. Edward, Elk Grove, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, Streamwood.
Setting the stage: When Schaumburg last hosted a sectional, state powers Glenbrook North and South as well as MSL champ Barrington dominated the tournament, leaving little available for the rest of the field. But three years later, this venue is much more manageable for MSL West rivals Conant and Schaumburg.
"We have had a great season so far, losing only to Barrington in MSL play while tying for third overall at our conference tournament last weekend, so the guys are really looking forward to continued success at this sectional," says Conant coach Dave Koleno. "It's a great group of guys who are get along so well, which, of course, makes my job that much more fun to do."
The Cougars' lineup will look a little different after Koleno paired his top two singles players (Modak-Rosas) together for this weekend to form a much stronger No. 2 doubles team behind the aforementioned Meyers-Huang (15-6) duo, giving the club perhaps the best one-two punch in the field. Koleno feels Streamwood junior Chris Veltkamp (23-5) is the clear No. 1 here this weekend under coach Jeff Szukala. "Chris has had a terrific year thus far, with individual titles at Rockford Boylan and Glenbard North, and a second place finish at the Schaumburg Invite all something to be proud of," Szukala said. In addition, Veltkamp was third at the Lake Park Invite, went 5-2 in the Upstate Eight's River Division, before claiming third place overall at the conference tournament.
Zeshann Haq (14-6) will have a good opportunity at singles to give the Cougars another state qualifier, as will Elk Grove sophomore, Markos Christoforou, who gave the Grens their best finish at the MSL tourney with a fourth-place medal at No. 1 singles.
at StevensonWhen: 2 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday
Guest list: Buffalo Grove, Palatine, Carmel, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Mundelein, Stevenson, Vernon Hills, Wauconda.
Setting the stage: Ben VanDixhorn and Stefano Tsoriotis of Libertyville are two of the top players in the state, with Colin Harvey (Stevenson) right there with the Wildcats duo. With Stevenson soph Brian Weisberg rounding out the top four, it'll be tough for anyone else to break through.
That means the attention will focus in the doubles competition, where Palatine coach Jim Lange has moved his top player (David Chon) alongside Mark Scovic, with the hope of making a strong run at the fourth and final spot available after the two Stevenson teams and Carmel's Michael Butler/Kevin Hunt likely occupy the top three slots.
"When you look at the strength of this sectional, it's at singles, with three of the best in the state at the top, plus a very good player in Weisberg next in line," said Lange. "Our guy (Chon) has had a wonderful year, but a lot of things have to work in his favor to get into the top four. So off of that, we feel our best chance to get someone through is to pair David and Mark together, and see how it goes."
Chon finished third last weekend at the MSL tourney, while Scovic teammed with Alex Ruthe to capture a second-place trophy at No. 1 singles. Stevenson's Matt Harvey/Adam Maryniuk and Benjamin Bush/Tommy Cheng could meet in the final on Saturday.
-- Mike Garofola