Boys tennis: Hinsdale Central unseats Naperville Central
After winning the prestigious Jay Kramer Invite, Zack Elliot vowed to follow the time honored sports adage of playing one match at a time.
The Hinsdale Central star continued to follow his patient course as he navigated his way through the rest of the regular season, right on through to winning a sectional crown, and two terrific days of the Class 2A boys tennis tournament.
But when the Lehigh University-bound Elliot (29-3) awoke Saturday morning he realized he was one victory away from playing in the state final, almost forgetting the promise he made to himself four weeks ago.
Elliot advanced into that singles final after a straight-set win in his semifinal, then followed it up with an inch-from-perfect performance against Dominick Cuchran of Lyons Township to lift the championship trophy.
Teammates Trevor Hamilton-Andrew Buhelos followed up Elliot's victory nearly 90 minutes afterward to claim the second big prize of the day for the Red Devils, who captured their 24th state title in program history, sixth in the last decade.
Elliot's 7-5, 6-1 victory closed out challengers Stevenson and New Trier for good. They each scored 33 points to Hinsdale Central's 44, with defending champion Naperville Central next with 30 points, and Lyons Township in fifth with 19 points.
"My goal ever since the end of last year's state tournament was to win the singles title," Elliot said.
The Red Devils couldn't come up with more hardware after the three days, although freshmen Danny Schmelka was close at singles, as was the doubles team of Joe Daw-Ansh Shah.
Martin Matov and Ammaar Saeed (28-5) held its 3-4 seed with a sparkling performance at tourney host Hersey High School, defeating Daw-Shah in three sets to claim third place, after falling short against eventual state champs Hamilton and Buhelos in a three-set semifinals masterpiece.
"Those guys were so close (they) needed just a little bit more to get over the hump, especially in that first set (tiebreaker) loss," said Naperville Central coach Dan Brown of Matov-Saeed.
" ... Last year, on the final day of the tournament (Ryan) Roegner comes through with a big third-place finish right about the same time Bill Zhang and Matov get us a fifth-place medal to help us win the state title by two points (28-26) over New Trier.
"But it's crazy to think that 28 points gave us a state championship, and this year, 30 points was good only for fourth."
Waubonsie Valley senior Anthony Nguyen (31-6) dashed the hopes of another state medal for Roegner when he outlasted the Redhawks star 6-4, 7-5 to earn fifth-place honors.
"Playing in the front draw over at Hersey was my dream, but to come back to win three straight in the back draw to finish fifth in a great singles field is a great way to end my career here at Waubonsie," Nguyen said.
Metea Valley's Ian Doyle-Aleksander Schroeder (29-5) were eliminated in the 2A consolation quarters on Saturday, as was Joris Bizys (Hinsdale South) in Class 1A.
Bizys' teammates Namit Sambare-Joshua Eisenschenk, however, earned fifth-place honors following their 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Owen Setran-Graham Shelton of Wheaton Academy.
Ty Krill at singles, and Devin Greeno-Tristan Hilson each suffered consolation quarterfinal defeats, but they helped Wheaton Academy to earn a fourth-place finish in the Class 1A team race, missing out on a trophy 27-24 to third-place Chicago Latin.
Alex Bergendorf was a consolation quarterfinal victim, missing out on his chance for a state medal, but not so for the Montini duo of: David and Thomas Balka, who overcame a heartbreaking three-set loss in the semifinals to bounce back with a solid all-around effort to capture a third-place trophy, the first state tennis trophy in program history.
"Montini is known for its great winning tradition in both football and wrestling, but now we have something in tennis to build from," coach Don Krystof said.
The Broncos looked to have switched the momentum in their favor after getting back even in sets with Chicago Latin (Jonathan Wuyan-Tej Bahri) but things went south in the third set in an eventual 6-4 loss.
"We were broken a couple of times, had a lot of unforced errors, and just didn't play the way we knew we could in that third set," said David Batka, who will attend South Carolina next fall.
The senior was a state qualifier last season at singles, were he went 2-2 overall, while younger brother Thomas, a sophomore, earned his first state appearance with then-doubles partner David Harte.
"It feels great to be the first players to win a state medal for Montini tennis, now I'll look to continue that tradition next year," Thomas Batka said.