Boys tennis: Burlington Central's Welker reaches round of 16 at state

 
By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 5/25/2018 8:06 PM
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  • Alex Veltkamp of Streamwood reacts after a shot during boys state tennis prelims Thursday at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.

      Alex Veltkamp of Streamwood reacts after a shot during boys state tennis prelims Thursday at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Alex Veltkamp of Streamwood hits a backhand during the boys state tennis prelims Thursday at Barrington High School.

      Alex Veltkamp of Streamwood hits a backhand during the boys state tennis prelims Thursday at Barrington High School. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Alex Veltkamp of Streamwood hits a forehand during boys state tennis prelims Thursday at Barrington High School.

      Alex Veltkamp of Streamwood hits a forehand during boys state tennis prelims Thursday at Barrington High School. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Nicholas Welker was a little fish in a big tennis bowl during his first two seasons at the state tournament.

Welker, who has worn the Burlington Central uniform the past four seasons, did well to get himself into the-then field of 64 when its was a one class system -- before breaking through to win a sectional title a year ago, and once again just last weekend.

The Grand Valley State-bound Welker showed why the tournament committee anointed him a 3-4 seed with two strong efforts in near 90 degree weather on Thursday, and now finds himself in the round of 16.

"It was all about playing smart, and being efficient in order to get out of the sun and heat today, in order to get ready for tomorrow," said Welker, who won both of his matches with easy straight-set results to set up a contest against 9-16 Tyler Knill of Wheaton Academy, who finished fifth last season at doubles along with Owen Setran.

Welker, who qualified from the Huntley sectional two straight seasons, before lifting the championship trophy at his 1A sectional the next two seasons, was fifth overall a year ago, losing to this year's No. 1 seed, Nathan Spear of Chicago Northside.

While Welker may be the lone player or two from the Fox Valley area still alive in the front draw, several others remain as Day No. 2 continues at 8 a.m. Friday.

The Welker-Krill match will be at Buffalo Grove, while Kerwin Chong (Jacobs) and his teammates are on the back draw schedule Friday.

Chong (32-6) stormed back from a loss to 9-16 Anthony Ngugen (Neuqua Valley) to defeat his next two opponents.

Teammates Kyle and Kevin Burton, sectional runners-up at Cary-Grove last weekend, ran into 3-4 seed Naperville Central (Joseph Li-Mark Polowczak) in the second round, but came back in fine form to eliminate Kaahan Motwani-Andrew Miles of Conant.

Chong will be at Wheeling, the Burton brothers at Prospect, where the St. Charles North duo of Ajay Gustafson-Conor Bajuk will begin their day.

The North Stars would start brightly enough, only to run into 5-8 New Trier (Dylan Drier-Jake Zapoli) in the next round.

Following their two-set defeat, North bounced back with a two-set victory, to book its fourth match of the tournament with Normal Community.

Gustafson-Bajuk were sectional champs, beating out teammates Reed Goldsworthy-Josh Joseph, who went 1-2 on the day.

At the same sectional in which Gustafson-Bajuk were triumphant, Batavia's Brogan Pierce and Chase Bremner went one-two at singles to lead the Bulldogs to the team title.

On Thursday however, Pierce (27-3) saw his season end far too soon after a 1-2 day, while Bremner, following a loss to 9-16 Michael Bukhalo (Glenbrook South) roared back to defeat Matthew Sengphommachanh (Elgin) to keep his hopes alive for at least one more day.

Next up for the junior will be Naveen Ramakrishnan, the freshman from Naperville Central at Wheeling Friday morning.

Cary-Grove is out, but not until after Michael Ptaszek-Daniel Sowa recorded an impressive win in their first state appearance before 9-16 Glenbrook North (Ben Riad-Ethan Park) closed the door on the Trojans' duo, who later were eliminated by Downers Grove South.

"Michael and Daniel played so well against Stagg (then) they came up against a truly fine doubles team from GBN, which has played together for the last two years, and could really hit their shots with finesse and technique," said C-G coach Amanda Schuetzle.

Alex Veltkamp (21-8), the two-time state qualifier from Streamwood, saw his season end, as did the Hampshire doubles team of Abraham Hougland-Blake Snider, and the St. Charles East duo of Colin Johnson-Zach Moss.

Elgin Academy, which last sent a doubles team to state in 2015 saw Johnny Yavari-Joseph Hargrave bow out following their 1-2 day in 1A play.

While play in the back draw continues on Friday, those advancing from the round of 16 will all move over to tourney host Hersey High School in Arlington Heights for the quarterfinals at both 1A and 2A.

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