Boys tennis: Naperville Central remains on course for third in a row
Naperville Central standout singles player Ryan Roegner and his teammates will have to wait a couple more days before attempting to claim a third straight DuPage Valley Conference boys tennis crown.
On-and-off rain on Friday and Saturday prevented the meet from its scheduled completion on Saturday, but it didn't dampen the Redhawks' spirits or their momentum. After going unbeaten in the regular season, Naperville Central opened play in the conference meet with 52 points, with a solid Neuqua Valley team in second at 46 and Naperville North third at 37.
Roegner, third in the state last year when the Redhawks claimed the state's team title, won his only match Saturday on his team's home courts before the rains returned. He knocked off Lake Park's Tyler Ferengul 6-1, 6-0 and is a heavy favorite to claim the No. 1 singles crown yet has plenty of respect for the other three semifinalists: second-seeded Phasu Sirinit of Wheaton Warrenville South; Waubonsie Valley's Anthony Nguyen; and Wheaton North's Kevin Li.
"There's a lot of good teams this year in the DVC," said Roegner, who will take to the courts with a record of 20-7 Monday when the conference meet resumes. "Neuqua and (Naperville) North have gotten much better from last year up and down their lineup."
Naperville Central, however, has been up to the tough DVC challenges, as most of last year's state championship squad returned this year and talented freshman Naveen Ramakrishnan brought another star to the lineup. Ramakrishnan is the top seed at second singles in the DVC and is expected to have an impact on the upcoming sectional as well as the team's chances to capture another state trophy this year.
"We've come out with wins so far in all of our DVC matches, which is good. One of our goals is to do well in this tournament and in the regular season so we've been doing a good job of that so far," said Roegner, who will play tennis next year at Butler University. "We're looking to place high at state again this year. I think we'll have a good shot at it this year again."
Neuqua Valley, which lost a tight 4-3 dual with the Redhawks in the regular season, has a deep lineup of strong singles and doubles players. Jared Bennick, the top seed at No. 3 singles, won his quarterfinal match 6-0, 6-2, and second-seeded teammate Tyler Beck won his first contest at second singles without dropping a single game on Saturday.
"We're very, very deep. My (doubles) threes could be my ones, and my fourth singles is a solid player. Our best attribute probably has been our depth," said Wildcats coach Trudy Bennorth, whose team came the closest to handing the Redhawks a conference setback this spring. "I would love to have gotten them. Now it's going to be tough to come back. But we'll see. Our team has no stars. We are just solid. The kids have just been giving it their all."
At fourth singles, the top seeds all breezed into the semifinals, including a 6-0, 6-0 win by Naperville North's Vincent Lee and a 6-0, 6-1 win by Neuqua Valley's Chris Smith.
Naperville Central coach Dan Brown likes the way his 15-3 team has played in 2018, and also likes Roegner's chances to shine again at state, although this year's list of state contenders is a long one.
"Our goal is to win conference and to win as many spots as we can, but our second goal is to get everybody through the state tournament," Brown said before rain halted play Saturday. "Once you're there, there's a lot of variables."
As for his top player, he added: "The singles draw is wide open and I think 12 of top 16 are back from last year and then there's four really good freshmen. Ryan could win it and he could lose in the quarters. There's so many good people there."