Boys tennis: With spring season lost, summer also in jeopardy
The cancellation of the boys tennis season this spring denied Hinsdale Central a shot at a third straight state championship, and the future of key summer tournaments for the top area players looks like the next casualty.
Hinsdale Central was poised for another strong team. The Red Devils were joined in the Top 10 at last year's Class 2A state tournament by Stevenson (third), Naperville Central (fifth), Hersey (seventh) and Barrington (10th).
As a sophomore last year, Max Sheldon from Hersey finished second at state. Another sophomore, Stevenson's Eric Perkowski, won a sectional title and his first three matches at state before reaching the consolation semifinals.
"We were likely going to have an exceptionally strong team, but more importantly the kids are bummed that they won't be hanging out together," Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope said. "I think they're getting some major Zoom fatigue. I know they're very disappointed but are putting on strong faces and vowing to come back stronger and faster next season. As tennis players, they are used to being on their own, but this was the part of the school year they look forward to most because being part of a team is just so much fun."
Several teams also were coming off good showings at the Class 1A state tournament including Wheaton Academy (third), and Glenbard South and Montini, who tied for seventh.
This also was going to be the final season for Glenbard South coach Mark Conrad.
"We have a deep, strong squad of 16 varsity players, and we felt we were the preseason team to best (in the Upstate Eight Conference)," Conrad said. "In the few weeks of practice leading up to the schools shuttering their doors, the boys were bonding well, pushing each other hard during practice drills and weights training."
Four players at Batavia missed out on their senior season including Brogan Pierce, who will play next year at Western Michigan.
"The 2020 season will go in the books as the season that never was," Batavia coach Brad Nelson said. "Our conference boasted four of the top singles players in the state, making for what would have been an ultra competitive and entertaining conference tournament."
Nelson said that with tennis courts closed, his returning players have resorted to Ping-Pong and pickle ball in their driveways for hitting practice.
Looking ahead to 2021 isn't easy with many of the USTA tournaments and other normal summer camps looking unlikely.
"I feel one of the ramifications will be that all spring athletes have lost two months of playing and training time," Nelson said. "I am certain they will all be a bit rusty. There is one thing for sure, every athlete will be hungry to compete once the restrictions are lifted. I think they will have an even greater appreciation for high school sports and the opportunities they present. Players have been able to slow down their lives and spend more time with family. I am hoping it has also allowed them time to reflect and really think about the big picture in life."
Barrington brought back four returning state qualifiers this year, two of whom were seniors, Matt D'Amore and Aryan Sharma.
Broncos coach John Roncone was looking forward to seeing what they could have done at state.
"We were clearly excited for the 2020 season and we thought we'd be pretty competitive," Roncone said. "We believed that we had the experience to make a nice run in the MSL Conference as well as in state level play. I am very lucky because I coach some great kids who really love the game and play it at a high level."
With the high school season lost, the summer could be nearly as quiet. Most of the big Midwest tournaments have already been canceled by the USTA with only a few up in the air.
Batavia's Pierce isn't sure what to expect for his freshman season at Western Michigan.
"For my training, I have been able to squeak a lot of hits in on courts that haven't been locked, but they are slowly winding down," Pierce said. "It has been difficult but I'm doing everything that I can to maintain my level and work my way through this. Western Michigan has not said what they are planning to do in the fall, but I still hope that everything will be continued as usual this coming year."