High drama as state tournament continues
The second day of the boys tennis state tournament is one for sensational theatrics.
Libertyville's Ben VanDixhorn and Stefano Tsorotiotis were center stage for it this year, along with both doubles teams from Stevenson, as well as one of the Patriots' top players of all time, Colin Harvey.
Things went well for the Libertyville duo at the onset --not so for the lads from Stevenson. And at day's end, VanDixhorn, Tsorotiotis and Harvey still have a chance at earning a state medal, but not the desired top finish.
VanDixhorn (28-3) will play Harvey at 8 a.m. Saturday (weather permitting) in a consolation quarterfinal in Buffalo Grove. Tsorotiotis is set to face either Andy Page of Wheaton Warrenville South or Tom Bickel of New Trier.
VanDixhorn opened Friday with an easy win over Mark Wu of Glenbook North, setting up a match with No. 2 Gianni Ross (20-1) of Lyons Township, who also happens to be currently ranked in the top five nationally for his age group.
"I knew once the draw as announced that I would see Gianni in the quarters," said VanDixhorn. "It wasn't the best of draws for me, but I was still looking forward to playing him."
Ross, who possesses a thunderous forehand and terrific all-around game, still had his troubles with the three-time state qualifier, who was even with Ross (4-4) in the first set, before a big forehand winner from the LT sophomore going the other way put him ahead for good in a 6-4 first-set victory.
"We had our chances in that first set, but Gianni is good enough to make sure you can't take advantage of some of those chances," said Wildcats assistant coach Jeff VanDixhorn.
The second set was as crazy as the weather at host Hersey in Arlington Heights. The players endured plenty of heat and humidity in between a one hour rain delay, which suspended play around noon.
Neither player could hold service during the second set as the big gallery witnessed a see-saw battle. Ross eventuall broke back to take a 4-3 advantage and won 6-3.
"It was a great match, between two great players who had some incredible rallies with nearly every point," said LT assistant coach Dave Robare, who won a state doubles title along with John Smits in 2007. "But in the end, I think Gianni was able to do a pretty good job with Ben's big left-handed serve, while adjusting along the way when he had the wind, and when against it."
"It's tough right now to be out of the front draw, but I've got to regroup and try to go out and do well for myself and our team," said VanDixhorn.
The Wildcats stand alone in sixth place in the team race with 21 points, 2 behind Lake Forest.
Hinsdale Central leads the way with 40 points, followed by Lyons Township (34), New Trier (28) and Stevenson (25).
Tsorotiotis (13-2) had 3-4 seed Alex Ross (20-1) on the ropes during their quarterfinal match after an easy 6-2 first-set win. But the LT senior roared back to win the next two sets, sending the Wildcats sophomore into the backdraw today.
"That match was there for the taking, but midway through the second set, I began to cramp in my hands, shoulders, and legs, and it progressively got worse," said Tsorotiotis. "But I felt I had to play that third set because it was the sporting thing to do, and Alex is such a great player."
Libertyville doubles mates Michael Gasick/Julian Janczak (18-9) helped the team cause with one more win in the backdraw before falling in the fifth round to Joliet West, the same tandem which later bounced Matt Harvey/Adam Maryniuk (27-10) of Stevenson in their seventh-round match.
Benjamin Bush/Josh Cheng (24-7) of Stevenson fell victim to Carmel's Michael Butler/Kevin Hunt (36-4), who not only avenged their sectional semifinal loss to Bush/Cheng from a week ago but in doing so won their fourth match of the day to stay alive in the race for a state medal.
"This is all unreal," said Hunt, who along with Butler were on the way to their Carmel graduation ceremony in their tennis uniforms after finishing late in the day on Friday. "Stevenson is a great team, but for us it was a great win. Now we'll see how it goes tomorrow morning."
Harvey ended a long second day inside at the Heritage Indoor Courts in Arlington Heights with a victory over Jack Randall of Lockport to stay alive one last day.
"We had to go inside, and around 9 p.m. he won a crazy super-tiebreaker to advance," said Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope.
Tournament officials are planning on starting the backdraw matches at 8 a.m. Saturday, then semifinal action at 9 a.m. at both singles and doubles at Hersey. Should rain force a long delay, the plan will be to move the action inside. Check the IHSA tennis page for the most recent information.