Boys tennis: Stevenson, Hersey's Sheldon shine at Pitchford
Max Sheldon would brighten up what was otherwise a dark, dreary Saturday afternoon in Arlington Heights with a sparkling performance to capture the No. 1 singles crown at the prestigious Tom Pitchford boys tennis invite.
The Hersey senior would cap his marvelous two-day effort with a straight-set victory over Stevenson senior Eric Perkowski to win the first of four majors the 2019 state runner-up hopes to claim, with the top seed in next month's state tournament all but ensured following this key victory.
"Ever since my freshman year when I played before my friends and classmates who came out to cheer for me here at the Pitchford, one of the first goals I made for myself was to win the Pitchford, then state, so with this win today I am halfway there to meeting those goals," said Sheldon, who survived a pair of short rain delays to defeat Perkowski, 6-4, 6-3.
Sheldon, who will play next fall at Michigan State, would overcome a pair of short rain delays on Saturday in his final and in doing so, helped his club earn fourth place overall with 33 points, while reigning North Suburban Conference champion Stevenson lifted the team trophy with 42 points, 2 points clear of runners-up Fremd and New Trier.
The Trevians' team of Colin Fox-John Rogers outlasted Blake Roegner-Daanyal Saeed (Naperville Central) in a thrilling and well-played two-set final to win the No. 1 doubles crown.
New Trier would cruise into its final, while Roegner-Saeed edged past the top seed from Barrington (Amar Wazir-Ethan Paik) in three sets, before sending a quality side from Chicago Latin (Akshay and Karan Pasielak) in straight sets.
Once in the final, the Trevians went out to a 4-0 first-set advantage, before the Redhawks roared back to go ahead 6-5, before falling in (7-2) in the tiebreaker.
"We were a little tight at the start of our final," agreed both Roegner and Saeed, who were 2019 state-runners up.
"Once we figured out how (New Trier) going to play, we got ourselves back in the match, but on my end I got a little sloppy later in the match and they were hitting some great returns to win big points," added Saeed.
"We got ourselves back in the match by playing the way we know we can, but they were a very good team and hopefully, we'll have the opportunity to play them again at state," said Roegner.
"(They) got themselves back in it after our great start, so we had to dig in and play our best in order to win the title," said Fox, whose booming serve and big forehand proved trouble all throughout the contest.
Lake Forest would defeat top seed Stevenson (Ervin Perkowski-Gabe Visotsky) in straight-sets, 6-2, 6-3 to win at No. 2 doubles, while freshman Andrew Spurck (Fremd) earned his first major title of his young career with his 6-4, 6-2 decision over Jacobs sophomore Kyle McNally in a match between the top two seeds at the flight.
"Andrew is physically and mentally strong. He has the firepower, discipline, and self-motivation to compete at a high level," said Fremd assistant coach Scott Newmark, himself a former star player at Stevenson at the start of the decade.
McNally (25-1) forms an impressive one-two punch with teammate Thomas Nelson for Jacobs coach Jon Betts, who has been thrilled with the progress his two top players have already shown this season.
"Since his freshman year when he qualified for state, Thomas has done well to clean up areas of his game, especially with his serve which is as good as anyone in the state," said Betts. "McNally plays an incredibly aggressive style of tennis when you consider how clean and efficient his matches have been."
Nelson would eventually finish fifth overall.
At Palatine: At the first Palatine Pirate Team Dual Tournament, Metea Valley would come away with top honors following its 4-0 defeat of Vernon Hills.
The Mustangs would have an easy time of it over the two days, dropping just three matches overall, while the runner-up Cougars were pushed in their semifinal, which went 4-2 in their favor over Conant.
"We lost some tight matches in doubles, and had three tiebreakers in singles, but the guys played hard all weekend, embraced the team format, and saw some great competition, so I am proud of our strong finish, and excited that we're playing some of our best tennis headed into the final weeks of the season," said Conant first-year coach Matt Marks.