Boys tennis: Stevenson garners NSC crown

Stevenson's boys tennis team won the North Suburban Conference tournament Saturday and celebrated like a baseball club would have after a walk-off home run.

Patriots netters huddled and bounced and screamed joyously near a court at the Vernon Hills Athletic Complex after "batting" a robust .714 by going 5-for-7 in the flight championships on a chilly, gray morning.

The only thing missing in the middle of the happy scrum was a soggy Chicago Cubs slugger with a ripped jersey.

"Our guys should be happy; this was one of our three team goals," Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope said, adding the others are qualifying all entrants (2 singles, 2 doubles) to state at a Class 2A sectional - also at VHAC - next weekend and winning the state tourney in Arlington Heights the following weekend.

Each championship final Saturday featured a Stevenson entrant against a Lake Forest entrant, less than a week after the Pats' 7-0 defeat of the Scouts in a dual meet.

Stevenson emerged victorious at No. 1 singles (sophomore Eric Perkowski), No. 3 singles (freshman Nicolas Stec), No. 2 doubles (Payton Adkisson-Daniel Tulchinsky), No. 3 doubles (Thomas Gong-Andy Dong) and No. 4 doubles (Kevin Fei-Gabriel Visotsky) at the seven-team gathering.

Stanhope's crew amassed 38 points to runner-up Lake Forest's 32. Libertyville (17) edged Warren (16) for third place, and Mundelein (5.5), Lake Zurich (4) and Zion-Benton (1) finished fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.

Stevenson had battled Lake Forest in the Deerfield quad, the Pitchford 32 and the Deerfield invitational before facing its rival twice in a six-day span this week. Guess who's also in the field at next weekend's Stevenson sectional?

Lake Forest's Scouts.

Familiarity breeds respect.

"Lake Forest," Stanhope said, "always shows up ready to play on the Saturday of our conference meet, no matter how it had competed against us in the regular season. [LF coach] Corky Leighton sometimes changes the look of his lineup at conference, and more times than not his players play with a higher level of intensity. When you play a team four, five, six times in a season, you have to be wary it will figure you out eventually.

"We were tested in several matches today," added the coach of the Class 2A runner-up squad last season. "We expected that from Lake Forest."

Perkowski, half of the Class 2A state runner-up doubles team (with Prathinav Merneedi) last spring, shook off a game effort from LF sophomore Vishvam Bhagat in the No. 1 singles final Saturday. The talented Pat needed three rackets - including one belonging to a teammate - en route to notching a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Perkowski had busted strings in his two sticks and had to swing one of senior Arjun Sheelvanth's weapons for more than a set to complete his feat.

Sheelvanth and classmate Ozzie Viswanathan bowed 6-2, 6-2 to Lake Forest's Will Zordani-Oleksyi Vyshyvanyuk in the No. 1 doubles final.

"A bit more tension," Perkowski, the reigning Deerfield invite No. 1/No. 2 singles flight champ, said, referring to the tightness of the strings in Sheelvanth's racket compared to the level he prefers in his.

"Not my best performance. Staying simple … that's what ended up helping me today. Every time I tried to do something a little extra, it did not go well."

Perkowski displayed his versatility in an impressive stretch in the first set, carving back-to-back winning drop shots at the end of a game and - after exchanging heavy-topspin forehands with Bhagat - lofting a deft backhand lob over the Scout for another winner at the start of the next game.

Patriots Fei and Visotsky collaborated for a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win at No. 4 doubles against LF's Kevin An and Samuel Shen in the only 3-set final of the day. Adkisson/Tulchinsky skipped to a 6-2, 6-1 decision at No. 2; Gong-Dong won 6-4, 6-1 at No 3; and Stevenson's Stec solved LF's Scott DeNoble 6-1, 7-5 in the title match at No. 3 singles.

Stanhope also received a runner-up showing from No. 2 singles player Zach Kim (injury default to Scouts freshman Sahil Conjevaram, at 1-3 in the final).

Libertyville's Wildcats placed third in four flights, with a trio of them coming in doubles: Wils Warren-Scott Johnston (No. 1); Hunter Freise-Adam Nostrand (No. 2); and Reece Hoff-Kyle Otte (No. 4). Libertyville's Matt Morrettini netted third-place points at No. 3 singles.

The Warren pair of Collin Sorge-Colton Wood finished third at No. 3 doubles, matching the place Blue Devils senior Cecil Mella achieved at No. 1 singles. Mella topped Mundelein freshman Kevin Edquiban in their contest for bronze.

Edquiban's tennis instructor at the age of 9 was Sidney Mella - Cecil's father.

Cecil Mella and Edquiban stood together and posed for a photo afterward.

Game, set … smile.

Another 'home run' moment at a tennis meet.

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