Boys tennis: Stevenson impresses at Deerfield; Host Lake Park gets winning answers
Early morning showers slowed things down on the courts at both Deerfield and Lake Park, but the best was yet to come late Saturday afternoon in boys tennis tournaments at both sites.
Stevenson's balanced lineup was right there until the end before falling 1 point short of Highland Park, who won the top prize at the high profile Deerfield 8 Invite on Saturday. Highland Park outscored the Patriots 50-49 and edged third-place Deerfield (48).
"Our freshmen are improving, we had a good day overall, and now we'll go after Lake Forest at the NSC tournament and see if we can take one away from them next weekend," said Patriots coach Tom Stanhope, who received some terrific work from his freshman duo at singles, Zach Kim (No. 1) and Aswath Viswanathan. The Pats also got plenty of points in the consolation bracket.
Kim in particular enjoyed a bright start after stunning No. 3 seed Scott Bickel of New Trier in Saturday's quarterfinals after having his match on Friday called on account of darkness.
"It was a tough match up until we couldn't play, but the rain this morning turned out to be the best thing to happen for me because it allowed me to get myself ready, both mentally and physically for (Bickel) -- and with the help of my teammates, I was able to pull out a big win for my team and myself," said Kim, who fell to eventual singles champion Vuc Budic (Deerfield) in the semis before going on to defeat Tom Bickel for third-place honors. "I like being our No. 1, but it isn't always easy because of the level of players I have to go against all of the time -- makes you feel like you're out there on your own island. But as I said, the support that I receive from my teammates and coaches makes all of it so much easier and fun."
"Zach handles his role at No. 1 with a lot of maturity," said Patriots assistant coach Jeff Bernales. "He really gets it, and even when he is struggling or having a tough go of it, he always seems to be very cool and composed, which is something you don't always see in a freshman."
The Patriots' doubles teams advanced into the fifth-place match, but did not play each other in what would have been a meaningless contest for both.
Matt Harvey/Brian Weisberg were unable to get past eventual doubles champs Chris Cassati-Niko Wasilewicz in the quarterfinals. Ben Bush/Sam Komis suffered the same fate as their teammates during a three-set defeat to Highland Park's Nick Zazove/Chase Garber, who finished third.
Cassati-Wasilewicz appear to be nearing top form after a straight-set win over New Trier in the finals, one week after cruising through their opponents at the 32 before rain washed away the semifinals and finals.
"I think both of us kind of expected to just pick up where we left off last year, but we quickly found out it was a new season, and that we couldn't come out and just clean up our opponents," said Wasilewicz, who along with Cassati won a state title last season.
"We had our troubles holding serve," said Cassati, "and we just were not as sharp as we should or could be. But it all seems to be coming together at the right time."
This field gave fans a preview of what lies ahead in a couple of weeks, when Highland Park, Deerfield, Lake Forest and Glenbrook South all meet at the Highland Park sectional along with another state power, Glenbrook North.
at Lake Park: The annual Dan Hildebrandt Invitational provided its own set of thrills and spills on Saturday, with the host Lancers edging Conant 21-19 thanks to late heroics from Tim Martin's players.
The Lancers' newly anointed No. 1 team of Josh Solarz/Aayush Patel looked comfortable in capturing top honors at the West Campus in Roselle with a 6-2, 6-3 over Ryo Ishiyama/Khusal Shah (Conant).
Brian Woodman/Nick Sapic gave the Lancers a points boost with a third-place finish after a 6-4, 7-6 (5) win over the Rolling Meadows team of Sahil Shah/Jack Piscitello.
Two-time state qualifier Piotr Lada bounced back from a nearly three-hour loss in the semifinals to grab a third-place medal at singles to help the cause.
"We found out some things in advance of sectionals with our new lineup, and Piotr did a great job for us as well -- so it was a terrific day all the way around for us," said Martin.
Mack Galvin (Rolling Meadows) keeps rolling along, having claimed yet another tournament crown after dropping just five games on the day. Four of those game-losses went to Conant's Vera Iyer, who survived his marathon semi with Lada but had little left in reserve.
"Vera is one of three really good freshmen in the MSL this season, and I can tell you I won't take any of them lightly next weekend at our conference tournament," said Galvin, who is after his fourth consecutive title at No. 1 singles.
The Cougars' freshman appeared to be in trouble against the big-hitting Lancers senior after dropping the first set 6-2.
But Iyer won a see-saw second set tiebreaker which took over an hour to complete, setting up a super tiebreak to decide who would advance against Galvin.
"Vera is like a backboard -- he just hits the ball back, and he'll go on forever like that just wearing down his opponents," said Conant coach Dave Koleno.
Lara went up 2-0, then used an ace to draw back even at 3-3. But that would be it in the super tiebreaker as Iyer won 7 of the next 9 points to secure his 10-5 victory.
"Piotr is such a good player," said Iyer. "He has so much power, and for me it was all about keeping it in play, and not allowing him to play to his strength."
"(He) is a great young player," Lara said of Iyer. "He's solid with most of his play, and he was a terrific opponent. Once he grabbed the momentum, he rode it out. And when that happens, sometimes there's nothing you can do about it."
At the East campus, Lake Park's Solarz/Patel team was in some of trouble of their own against Shah/Piscitello of Rolling Meadows in the doubles semis.
"We knew we were in for a battle, so we had to fight as hard as we could, especially after going down in that second set," said Solarz, a senior who will attend Notre Dame. "But one of the great things about Aayush is he never gives up, and will go for anything when we need it."
Patel flashed that never-say-die attitude when he ran full speed towards the back fence to chase down what looked like a superb deep shot for a winner -- yet Patel tracked it down before unleashing a wonderful return shot to bring the game back to deuce.
Moments later, Solarz went the other way with a sublime touch to help the Lancers hold. And when Lake Park broke the Mustangs to go up 5-4, Patel served out to send the duo into the finals.
"Josh is a great guy to be playing with because he offers so much stability and senior leadership, and never allows me to get down on myself," said Patel, a freshman.
Glenbard North freshman Phil Boland earned a fifth-place medal at singles, defeating Alex Franco 6-1, 6-3. The Panthers' No. 1 team of Ohm Shukla/Kyle Stankosteky fell short in their fifth-place contest with Vaicunth Rajan/Umer Qazi of Schaumburg.
Returning state singles qualifier Chris Veltkamp of Streamwood was a late scratch after taking the weekend off to rest a sore shoulder in advance of the Upstate Eight Conference tournament next weekend.
Veltkamp was a sectional champ a year ago, winning nearly 30 matches for the Sabres, including the first sectional crown for the program since Yuki Tsukida achieved the feat in 2009.