Boys tennis: Glenbard West shuts out St. Francis

 
By Bill Stone
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 4/15/2019 10:33 PM
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For the third straight season, Glenbard West seniors Griffin Foster, Alex Kernagis and Christo Maltby should be a powerful trio at next month's Class 2A boys tennis tournament.

The remaining question is how they will be entered.

Kernagis played No. 1 singles and Foster and Maltby were at No. 1 doubles for Monday's 7-0 nonconference dual victory at St. Francis, but those roles could change come sectionals.

"We've moved around a lot. We're all-state players. We have tons of experience playing," Maltby said.

"I feel we're all so close. We've known each other for four years. We're comfortable with whatever happens. If (Glenbard West coach Tad Keely) says I play (doubles) with Alex or play singles or play with Griffin, it's pretty interchangeable."

At the 2018 state meet Foster and Maltby were top-16 in doubles and Kernagis was 0-2 in singles. At 2017 state Foster and Kernagis were top-24 in doubles and Maltby top-32 in singles, both with 2-2 records.

"It'll be a hard decision, my toughest decision in five years being the head coach," Keely said. "Any combination is going to be tough. And it's tough, too, because they've all been there (at state). It's not like I can have them play challenge matches in singles because it's a whole different game."

With eight seniors mostly four-year team members, and promising freshmen, the Hilltoppers could very well advance their entire two singles-two doubles sectional lineup to state.

The Hilltoppers (2-1) won Monday's matches in straight sets. Other victories included freshmen Sully Monteith and J.T. Gialluisi at Nos. 2 and 3 singles and seniors Joey Kent and Cole Jenkins, senior Tommy Vondruska and freshman Jordan Jenkins and seniors Carter Lindstrom and Collin Baker at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 doubles.

For St. Francis (4-3), the No. 1 doubles team of senior Danny Vale and sophomore Michael Kazmirak lost 6-1, 6-4 and juniors Michael Fasana and Nathan Corrigan lost 6-1, 6-3 at No. 3 doubles.

The Spartans are strong against fellow Class 1A opponents, beating St. Edward 7-0 in the Metro Suburban Conference opener, but also will continue learning through playing tough 2A competition like the Hilltoppers.

"I want our kids to see where they can go, where they can develop up to," St. Francis coach Tom Castronovo said. "These are the cream of the crop state players. Let's see what it looks like. That's what we aspire to."

So far at No. 1 doubles, Maltby and Griffin are 6-0, including Saturday's Glenbard West Invitational title, Maltby and Kernagis 1-0 and Foster and Kernagis 1-1, losing to Hinsdale Central. Foster only has played singles once and Maltby twice.

"We almost go day by day (deciding lineups)," Foster said. "Both of them have their upsides. It's just trying to get the chemistry up with both of them, just be ready for whatever happens."

Kernagis (Johns Hopkins) and Maltby (DePauw) plan to play collegiately. Griffin probably will attend Tulane or Kentucky.

"For me (the goal is) just to place at state. It's the goal for everyone," Kernagis said. "The team's really fun this year. We have eight seniors. For me it's kind of been about enjoying this last year and having fun."

Glenbard West is seeking a third straight sectional team title but have five new teams than 2018 at the Benet sectional -- the host Redwings, Naperville North, Glenbard East, Downers Grove North and Downers Grove South -- along with Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South.

Another factor to the sectional lineup might be Sully Monteith, who won at No. 2 singles Saturday but also could excel at doubles.

"Sully's a top kid, too," Keely said. "He never gets tired. And he's a fighter. He loves to compete."

Vale and Kazmirak (5-3) also have state on their minds. It's the first year together for the lone two lineup returnees after 17 seniors graduated.

The Spartans' last state berth came in 2015. Vale's brother, Michael, qualified in singles as a senior in 2011.

"We feel really good about (possibly qualifying)," Vale said.

"(Monday) was a tough match, a really good team. They're definitely big guns. We have these matches because if we don't (challenge ourselves), it's useless come late May."

In 2018 Vale played No. 1 singles and Kazmirak No. 1 doubles with numerous partners. They received a lift Saturday by taking second at the Brother Rice Invitational.

Kazmirak also draws inspiration from brother Michael, a four-year state singles qualifier for Lake Park from 2004-07.

"My brother always told me if you win you win. If you lose you learn. The more we learn, the more our chances to go win state," Kazmirak said.

"We've been trying to get our chemistry up, playing together, playing outside of high school, even just going to dinner sometimes. That's really important for all teammates."

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