Boys tennis: Budic, Galvin stage a state semifinal classic
One by one in the regular season and throughout the state series, including the first five matches of the high school boys tennis state tournament, opponents of both Mack Galvin and Vuk Budic had come up short.
Both superb players had played the entire season without experiencing a single defeat between them, setting up a momentous semifinal Saturday morning in Arlington Heights between the last two unbeaten players in the state.
The players, coaches and fans that jammed the host site, Hersey, witnessed a semifinal which instead seemed more like a title match.
Budic, a senior from Deerfield, outlasted local favorite Galvin of Rolling Meadows 7-5 (8), 7-5 in a thrilling, brilliantly played 2½-hour match.
Budic (31-0) went on to humble New Trier senior Scott Bickel 6-2, 6-1 to capture the state singles title.
Deerfield's Chris Casati/Niko Wasilewicz (27-2) were denied a second consecutive doubles crown by Hinsdale Central's Michael Czlonka/Nick Calzolano (16-1), who beat the defending champs 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (4).
New Trier lifted the team championship trophy for the 18th time in program history and for the first time since 2010, with Hinsdale Central, Deerfield, Highland Park and Neuqua Valley rounding out the top five.
Galvin (39-2) fell in his third-place match 6-3, 6-3 to Mark Wu of Glenbrook North, but came back later to accept the prestigious Pitchford Sportsmanship award following the final matches of this 81st state tournament.
"It was so close, wasn't it?" asked Galvin as he finally worked his way into the building after dozens of current and former players, along with friends and family, waited their turn to show their appreciation for his effort against the No. 1 seed and eventual state champion.
"It felt like I was playing the final with Vuk because of the atmosphere, and the back-and-forth play with a really great player and person like Vuk," said Galvin. "But in the end, it came down to just a couple of points, beginning with my double fault in that first set tie-breaker that could have been the difference in moving on or playing for third."
Galvin pushed Budic to his limit on a steamy court No. 1 of the Thomas Pitchford Tennis Complex. Though Galvin fell behind 3-1 early, the four-time Mid-Suburban League champ stayed composed and drew within 4-3 in the seventh game. Galvin got it to 5-5 when he mixed a couple of big serves, along with a thunderbolt forehand.
"I knew Mack had a very good forehand, but he really surprised me with an even better one than I expected. That and the humid conditions really forced me to adapt a little bit, and while I was attempting to get that under control, he was just playing great overall tennis," said Budic.
The first-set tiebreaker was just as fiercely contested as the 12 games prior and featured plenty of back-and-forth volleying. Galvin and coach Gary Brodnan pointed out how much a double fault (to make it 2-2) may have influenced the eventual 10-8 outcome.
"Mack was really mixing it up, and that big forehand of his for winners really helped get both him and the big crowd into it," said Deerfield assistant coach Ryan Johnstone.
It was more of the same in the second set, with the pace, speed of play, returns and overall performance from both players drawing plenty of vocal reaction from an overflow crowd.
Galvin opened with a 4-2 advantage, which became 5-3 after a strong, deep serve set up another forehand winner. But Budic did not buckle as he cut into the lead one game at a time, finally pulling even at 5-5 with a forehand blast of his own that found the very top of the net on the way over for a redirected point past Galvin.
Budic dictated the action during the next game to go up 6-5. He was then able to finish off Galvin 7-5, bringing forth a deep chorus of 'Vooooook' from his supporters.
"I can tell you sitting down on that court that the play from both players was at the highest level that I've seen in quite a while, as was the sportsmanship, with each complimenting a particularly great return or shot and always having the highest regard and respect for each other during a very intense tennis match," said Brodnan.
"It really was an amazing match to be involved in," Galvin said. "I don't know if I could have done anything differently, because I felt that I played my best tennis match of my high school career. And if you do that but lose to a great player like Vuk, that's just the way it happens sometimes."
• Jon Betts' team from Jacobs staved off Rockford Auburn to earn 10th place in the team race -- the best-ever finish in program history to put an exclamation point on a four-year run headed by Kailash Panchapakesan, whose terrific prep career came to an end early Saturday morning.
With most of his teammates on hand, as well as coaches from the Fox Valley Conference to add extra support, the four-time state qualifier lost to Jack Geissler in straight sets.
"That loss put a little damper on my tournament, but not my career, which was filled with so many great memories and ending with our great team finish here, plus me being able to finish (in the top 16) in my senior year," said Panchapakesan, who will attend UIC next fall with an eye on medical school while leaving open the possibility of competing collegiately.
"Jon does such a great job with his team, and all of his guys are terrific young men who have helped put FVC tennis in the spotlight over the last four years, so that's why I'm here today -- and to cheer for Kailish," said Cary-Grove coach Amanda Schuetzle, who was in the audience at Buffalo Grove along with Prairie Ridge coach Jim Benson.
Panchapakesan, who led a FVC contingent that won 22 matches over the three tournament days, finished with nearly 129 victories in his career, including the five he earned in the tourney.
"To play into the third day was always my goal," said the Golden Eagles' top player.
Betts, meanwhile, knows he's losing a group that will be impossible to replace.
"When I look around at the seniors on my roster this season, you realize just how fortunate you are to have a group of young men who worked and played hard, had so much success, and played with so much class and respect for their opponents, which to me, is so much more important than all the other things," Betts said. "Talk about being lucky to be a head coach."
• Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope saw both his doubles team lost their first consolation match of the day at Buffalo Grove on Saturday. Even with that, the Patriots finished eighth, tied with Edwardsville with 20 points.
"Benjamin (Bush) and Sam Komis got beat by a very good, young team from Naperville Central (Martin Matov/Ammaar Saeed), who just pounded away at us with some great forehands," Stanhope said. "(Brian) Weisberg and (Matt) Harvey lost to another really good doubles team from Benet (Patrick McGuigan/Jack Carroll), which is going to happen this deep into the state tournament.
"All of my guys had a terrific state tournament, and with all but Benjamin back, and a couple of real solid freshmen coming in next spring, we should be in good shape once again."