Boys tennis: Wheaton North captures fourth consecutive DuKane Conference title
At the conclusion of the tennis season, Wheaton North coach Eric Laird acknowledges their abundance of winning achievements.
There's been plenty for Laird's Falcons in the past three seasons and counting. The program had won the conference title for three consecutive seasons entering the 2022-23 campaign.
Saturday's efforts netted an impressive fourth.
The Falcons captured titles at all four doubles parings and three singles brackets to catapult to 85 first-place points, followed by Wheaton Warrenville South (54) and St. Charles North (52). Batavia was fourth, St. Charles East was fifth and Lake Park was sixth.
In a couple weeks, though, the clock restarts for a repeat to the winning process.
"Once you're able to start that [winning] tradition, then you build that momentum and you set that goal every year," Laird said. "Ending every season, I say, 'Hey, we had a fantastic season, but now, the bulk of the success in a season is determined by the offseason. We now have 42 weeks, essentially, to work on your game before the start of next season.' That's definitely contagious.
"So, those lower-level kids seeing the success of a team, that breeds that competitive nature. They want to keep that tradition going. That's been fun to watch: Kids really working in the offseason to be able to try to keep this streak going for the Falcons."
Wheaton North is 14-1 as a team - its lone loss came against York last Wednesday -- a testament to the overall team might and skill. Saturday's results were just another example of it.
"For our guys to win the championship at all seven positions showed their grit, perseverance and never-give-up attitudes," Laird said. "I was so very proud of each of them."
Four-year varsity member, Henry Ros, defeated Wheaton South's Arian Lagarija 6-4, 6-1 in the No. 1 singles championship match. Bharath Sudharsan defeated St. Charles North's Noah Bajuk 6-4, 6-1 in No. 2 singles, and Ben Kim topped Wheaton South's Jake Alman 6-2, 6-3 in No. 3 singles.
"I appreciate everyone on the team, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to do what no one has ever done at the DuKane Conference [tournament], which is [seven out of seven] positions winning conference and winning overall," Ros said. "I am very thankful for them [in] my last year, but now, we have to focus on sectionals and qualifying for state.
"But, also going far to compete and hopefully making a huge run in state. We have two more matches at home before we start at sectionals for our 1-2 positions for singles and doubles against Naperville North on Monday for sectionals seedings. And Neuqua Valley on Wednesday for competing [for] potential state seedings, but also having great competition."
For Laird, Ros "is such a joy to coach".
"He's very coachable and and is just a super hard-working, quiet kid who just goes about the business," Laird said. "He's worked on his game a ton over the past four years; is really an all-court player. You can tell he's been extra motivated to finish strong this season: just encouraging all his teammates, always reaching out to me and asking about our upcoming matches. He's one of our team captains this year. He kind of sets the tone at the top."
The Falcons' No. 1 doubles pairing, David Hill and Dylan Wallace, are nearing the completion of their first season as a pair. They came together in a comeback bid over St. Charles East's Quincy Moss and Sam Evans 3-6, 6-2, 11-9 in the final.
"I think we have a good mix of a lot of power and strength," Wallace said.
"We're able to communicate well together," Hill said. "We're able to structure out what we're planning on doing on our return and service games, signals ... we just fit well together."
Geneva sophomore and the Vikings' No. 1 singles player, Tyler Masoncup, is gearing up for next week's sectional meet. Masoncup moonlighted in doubles with Zack Graham and placed sixth.
"I'm hoping that I can get a higher seed, maybe a two or three," Masoncup said. "Then, I want to try and win the whole thing. I know I can. The only person in that sectional I've lost to [this season] is [St. Charles North's] Jon Spicer. I think I can beat him. My expectations are probably to get top three.
"(Spicer) has great ground strokes. He can hit the ball real hard and his serve also is amazing. His mental game, he stays in the point and just plays it out. He can turn the tempo whenever he wants to. He's really hard to play against. ... I think I'm going to have to prepare myself mentally and physically. … I've got to, when I'm playing him, stay in the moment. Make sure I'm being consistent with the points and also got to try and use his weaknesses against him."