Boys tennis: Scouting Lake County

  • Cecil Mella of Warren, here playing Shaddy Khalafallah of Moline in a first-day state tournament match last season, is back for his junior season with the Blue Devils.

    Cecil Mella of Warren, here playing Shaddy Khalafallah of Moline in a first-day state tournament match last season, is back for his junior season with the Blue Devils. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
By John Phelps
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/29/2018 4:00 PM

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC

CARMEL

 

Coach: Chris Kannenberg (sixth year)

Last season: fourth in Class 1A Carmel sectional, sixth in ESCC

Returning upperclassmen: Seniors Alex Colbert, Scott Haseman, Mitchell LoMastro; juniors Branson Apostal, Johans Baladad, Kevin Hutchins, Kevin Linares, Matthew Nikolai, Michael Nunez, William Patterson, Nathan Schedler, Zachary Snyder, Michael Whelan, George Yacu

Other key players: Sophomores Matthew Edejer, Tommy Borkowski

Outlook: The Corsairs are young and led by three seniors in Colbert, Haseman and LoMastro. But there is plenty of talent in a group that includes 11 juniors. "We're a young team that has been practicing hard and is looking forward to a competitive season," said Kannenberg. "Our strength is in our depth."

NORTHERN LAKE COUNTY

ANTIOCH

Coach: Jamie D'Andrea (fourth year)

Last season: 6-9, 3-4 in NLCC, fourth in Class 1A Lakes sectional

Key players lost: No. 1 doubles Brandon Sorensen and Jordan Keller

Key returning players: Senior Kyle Boudreau; juniors Tom Ruminski, Will Vesser

Notable additions: Senior Andrew Hare; sophomore Gavin Eldridge

Outlook: There are plenty of new faces but the growing pains shouldn't be too bad, according to D'Andrea. "This will be an interesting but fun year," she said. "Many of the new faces belong to athletes who have relatively easily picked up the basic skills necessary to be successful tennis players. I expect there to be some struggles early, but the more they play, I'm hopeful that we'll have several contenders for conference and sectional placements." Boudreau is no stranger to success having qualified for state the past two years. "He has matured into an even stronger player mentally and physically, so he should be fun to watch," noted D'Andrea. Ruminski and Vesser will likely fill the void left by Sorensen and Keller at No. 1 doubles. "They played a lot of tennis together this season, and Ruminski's thoughtfulness and attention to details combined with Vesser's quick hands and strong shots are sure to supply the 1-2 punch necessary to win," D'Andrea said.

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GRANT

Coach: Max Boton (first year)

Last season: 1-6 in NLCC, eighth in Class 2A Warren sectional

Key players lost: Steven Palacios

Key returning players: Seniors Evan Viscioni, Kyle Packard, Azam Syed; sophomore Billy Friedman

Key newcomers: Junior Walid Rafeh

Outlook: Grant and first-year coach Max Boton have plenty of reason for excitement this spring. First, the Bulldogs have a formidable 1-2 singles punch in Venezuelan-transfer Rafeh playing No. 1 and Friedman occupying the No. 2 spot. "Friedman played No. 1 singles last year and is poised to make substantial improvements in his game," said Boton. "And Walid played his entire life with the Venezuelan Federation and has come to Grant to finish his high school career." While a big strength is in singles, Boton noted that this is one of the deepest teams at Grant in years, which will be anchored by the three seniors (Viscioni, Packard Syed) looking to make final impressions in the doubles lineup. "Those 3 seniors only began playing tennis competitively in high school and have worked extremely hard to get to where they are right now," noted the coach. Grant will also benefit from the services of Brian Yoon, Billy Hornewer, Andre Lee and Drew Patterson. "They are highly motivated juniors and key pieces if we are going to capture the NLCC crown this year," added Boton.

GRAYSLAKE CENTRAL

Coach: Chuck Lawson (13th year)

Last season: 10-4, 6-1 in NLCC, third in Class 1A Lakes sectional

Key players lost: Carson Cerquone, Chase Starbird, Vance Doyola, Steven Sohn

Top returning players: Seniors Delon Bui, Greg Madjarov, Jordan Ramsey, Kyle Judge, Jacob Znoril, Mike Patricelli; juniors Matt Murdy, John Ryan

Notable additions: Juniors Shivan Kammala; sophomores Jeff and Jack Wold, Aavik Patel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Outlook: This looks to be another solid year for the Rams, who are the defending NLCC champs. "The team should be good with all of our players in the starting lineup having experience and good skills," said Lawson.

GRAYSLAKE NORTH

Coach: Johnny Kent (second year)

Last season: 14-5, 6-1 in NLCC, tie for fourth in Class 2A Warren sectional

Key players lost: Bryce Boyd, Cristian Melgoza, James Enowmbitang, Matt Brown

Top returning players: Seniors Matthew Pawlowski, Alex Cisneroz, Brian Szramek

Notable additions: Seniors Theo Cheon, Joe Rice; junior Eduardo Fonseca

Outlook: Despite losing eight out of 11 starters to graduation, the Knights still have hopes of repeating as regular-season NLCC co-champs. "We definitely have a lot to replace but we have a good group of guys that are working to compete and get better every day," said Kent. "We are hoping to catch some of the magic we had from last year and make a run." Pawlowski is a four-year returning starter at No. 1 singles, while Szramek and Cisneroz will jump into the No. 1 doubles spot. "They play with amazing chemistry that causes them to win a lot of matches and are both gamers and love to compete," said Kent. The coach hopes that competitiveness trickles down to some of the newcomers and lower positions in the lineup. "How much we are able to develop those players will determine whether we are able to repeat or not. Overall though we have a great group of guys that love the sport, love one another and love to compete. When you have those three things, you know you have the ability to maximize your potential and at that point, anything can happen."

LAKES

Coach: Bryan Plinske (23rd year, 14th at Lakes)

Last season: 9-4, fifth in Class 1A Lakes sectional

Key players lost: Jake Gotlib/Jackson Hubert (No. 1 doubles), Yue Li (No. 1 singles), Sam Stoy (No. 2 doubles), Joey Imhof and Jared Ziligen (No. 3 doubles)

Top returning players: Seniors Matthew Mercure, Collin Feustel, Adam Hagman; juniors Ravi Singh, Andrew Butler

Notable additions: Junior Carson Hubert; sophomore Jack Murrie

Outlook: Despite losing a number of players to graduation, the outlook is positive for the Eagles. "We still retained a solid core of players who have varsity experience," said Plinske. "And coupled with the returning players are the players looking to make the varsity team, so the energy and excitement these new players are bringing adds a great deal to the team dynamic." That being said, balance seems to be one of Lakes' biggest strengths. "What we have this year is a great balance of experienced leaders and youthful energy," added the coach. "The early part of the season has been fun and rewarding." Culture is always important and the Eagles' time and practice spent inside has helped foster that 'team first' attitude. "The whole program is looking forward to our first matches," added Plinske. "We want to try and show our conference and sectional what we can do this year."

ROUND LAKE

Coach: Atom Davis (eight year)

Key players lost: Ruben Ortiz

Last season: tie for sixth in Class 2A Warren sectional

Top returning players: Senior Rodrigo Villa; juniors John Brown, Danny Guzman, Diego Martinez

Outlook: The Panthers are hoping that the success enjoyed by graduated Ortiz will resonate with the players and program. Ortiz was a two-time state qualifier, including his junior year when he became the first to do so at Round Lake since 1994. "We lose one key player but we're still looking to have a successful season," said Davis. "Our goal is to finish high in the conference and qualify as many for state. Our team is really excited to play this season and we are looking forward to the challenge of competing." Brown and Guzman will anchor the Panthers lineup, while the newly formed No. 1 doubles team of Villa and Martinez look to have a solid season as well.

WAUCONDA

Coach: Ryan Whitfield (third year)

Last season: 11-8, 5-2 in NLCC, second in Class 1A Lakes sectional

Key players lost: Connor Splingaire (Milwaukee School of Engineering), Andrew Lu, Josh Nguyen, Ben Brannick, Eric Keller, Jarod Stonis, Joey Modica

Top returning players: Seniors Brian Hackman, Trevor Schuetz; juniors Dev Patel, Chase Hayden

Notable additions: Juniors Alan Tondryk, Tyler Fish, Robby Modica, Connor Brannick, Emil Ularu; sophomores Vinny Padula, Mark Yaroslavsky

Outlook: The Bulldogs have a nice mix of experience and younger talent. Three starters return while the newcomers are solid and experienced a lot of success at the JV level. Four-year varsity and No. 1 singles player Hackman returns for his senior campaign. The Hillsdale College commit is a 2-time state qualifier, including his junior year when he finished in the top-8. "He is looking to close out his career with a strong senior season," said Whitfield. Meanwhile, Patel will be at No. 2 singles and looks for a breakout year. After playing a majority of last season at No. 2 doubles, Schuetz and Hayden move up to No. 1 this spring. Fish and Tondryk also played a lot of tennis this off-season and will fill the No. 2 doubles spot. "We have 8-10 players competing for the remaining spots in the lineup," added Whitfield. "This is one of the more athletic groups I have coached as we have a large number of multisport athletes on the team." Whitfield and the boys are looking to be competitive in conference and hope to qualify several for the state series in May. "We have scheduled some of the top Class A schools in the area in preparation for the postseason."

NORTH SUBURBAN

LAKE ZURICH

Coach: Andrew McCurley (second year)

Last season: 5-6, ninth in Class 2A Cary-Grove sectional

Key players lost: Roberto Guagnelli, Alvin Pham, Noah Sung, Ryan Kim; Phillip Neff, Jim Weimer

Top returning players: Seniors Matt Edkins, Sam Leung

Outlook: The Bears lost 5 key seniors, notably Guagnelli and Pham, to graduation. But things still look pretty good for Lake Zurich, with starters Leung and Edkins anchoring the top of the lineup. "Right now we're a senior-led group," said McCurley. "All but two of our players in the starting lineup are seniors. But we have a lot of new blood out there. It's all about improvement and doing well in conference matches. Our first goal is do well in conference early on and hopefully take that into the postseason."

LIBERTYVILLE

Coach: Dan Kiernan (17th year)

Last season: third in Class 2A Warren sectional

Top returning players: Seniors Ken Hermann, Jack Higgins, John Scott; junior Hayden Friese

Additional players: Scott Johnston, Radu Manea, Nate Massa, Matthew Morettini, Nathan Valley, Lewis Wang, Hunter Friese, Reese Hoff, Adam Nostrand, Brandon Murphy

MUNDELEIN

Coach: Rick Bailey (first year)

Last season: 5-15, 1-6 in NSC, tie for sixth in Class 2A Warren sectional

Key returning players: Seniors Colin Bisterfield, Powell McCarthy, Henry Dumblauskas; juniors Jesus Ramos, Jose Ramos

Notable varsity additions: Juniors Michael Kim, Osvaldo Gomez, Raphael Familara

Other key players: Seniors Andrew Lechton, Josh Morris; junior Charlie Castro

Outlook: First year coach Bailey brings a wealth of coaching experience to the Mustangs' program. He coached the girls and boys programs at Johnsburg for the previous 25 years (31 overall). "I genuinely love working with the guys. They have responded well in practice," said Bailey. Mundelein has a good mix of several returning players as well some pretty good new faces on the roster. "We are hoping to raise our competitive level both in and out of the conference," Bailey said. "This is obviously one of the tougher conferences in the state and want to try and get a player (or more) to the state meet in May."

STEVENSON

Coach: Tom Stanhope (ninth year)

Last season: first in NSC meet, first in Class 2A Cary-Grove sectional, seventh at state

Key players lost: Brian Weisberg (Denison University), Matthew Harvey

Top returning players: Seniors Sam Komis, Jeremy Park, Michael Maryniuk; juniors Zachary Kim, Arjun Sheelvanth, Ozzie Viswanathan, Nick Ryding; sophomore Andy Dong

Notable additions: Freshman Eric Perkowski, Sai Merneedi, Payton Adkisson, Thomas Gong, Daniel Tulchinskiy

Outlook: The Patriots are young with six underclassmen. Combine that with graduating two instrumental doubles players (Harvey/Weisberg), the goal for Stanhope and the guys is to simply improve as a team every single day. "We return a great core of state qualifiers in Kim, Komis, Sheelvanth, and Viswanathan," Stanhope said. "And we expect others, who have a lot of tournament experience, to step in and help the team immediately." Coach expects some rough patches and growing pains early in the season, especially with a front-loaded schedule against tough competition. "Look for this team to be playing its best tennis at the end of the season when it matters."

WARREN

Coach: Greg Cohen (22nd year)

Last season: 8-5, second in Class 2A Warren sectional, 31st at state

Key players lost: Jacob Andersen, Eric Grosskopf, Caleb Gudeman, Ray Sorge

Key returning players: Seniors Stefan Radovic, Sebastian Castanos, Clark Anderson, Zach Schiferl, Tim Stirrat; juniors Nihad Mokkath, Cecil Mella, Alex Kuscsik

Notable newcomers: Juniors Inman Glass, Michael Boyke; sophomores Nathan Denny, Sohom Dash, Collin Sorge; freshman Tim Hidalgo

Outlook: The Blue Devils look solid with two returning state qualifiers Mella (singles) and Radovic (doubles) back. "Stefan (Radovic) is an all-star hockey player, has a 4.2 GPA, and is just one of those really special players I've had the honor of coaching," said Cohen, who enters the season with 371 career coaching wins, including 212 at Warren. "And Mella has worked really hard and is looking to have an even better junior campaign." The numbers were once again great with 63 players in Warren's tennis program this spring. "We return a lot of experience as well as have added some new players that will compete for varsity spots," added the coach, who sees Lake Forest and Stevenson being the biggest threats in the North Suburban Conference.

CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTH

VERNON HILLS

Coach: Doug Gerber (17th year)

Last season: 18-6, 3-3 in CSL North, first in Class 1A Carmel sectional

Key losses: Ankit Agrawal, Jacob Florian, Cole Guillaume, Harsha Namburi, Aakash Setty

Top returning players: Seniors Teddy Chen, Mangtani, Nguyen, Andrey Shor, Max Rattner; junior Anmol Oarande; sophomore Rohan Vasudeva

Other top candidates: Juniors Thomas Florian, Jack Mulcrone, Sujay Voleti; sophomores Keshav Sivaram, Pranav Vaswani, freshman Keshev Trikha, Eric Rodriguez

Outlook: Depth is a strength for the Cougars with the return of Vasudeva at No. 1 singles and the doubles team of Nguyen/Mangtani, who won two matches at state last May. "As usual, finding the right doubles' tandems will be a top priority at the start of the season," said Gerber, who was 10 seniors and an influx of new varsity members. "We should be consistent at each position." Vernon Hills continues to battle in the CSL North and will compete in the 1A Carmel Catholic sectional where the additions of Wauconda and Prairie Ridge should make things even more interesting

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