Boys tennis: Fremd's Spurck follows mom's footsteps, wins state title
The path to Fremd junior Andrew Spurck's state singles championship in boys tennis began nearly 10 years ago on a court at Eagle Park in Palatine.
There, on the other side of the net, stood his mother, Jennifer, and a bucket of tennis balls. Mom knows a thing or 200 about tennis.
"Mom" is the former Jennifer Nasser, who won the 1990 state singles title as a member of Hersey's girls tennis team.
"I was terrible," Spurck recalled at Saturday's Class 2A boys state tennis meet at Palatine, adding he hadn't picked up the sport until he was 8. "I kept hitting wild shots that hit the tarp (covering the fence) on the fly.
"Repetition helped," the Viking continued. "Good thing my mother gave me tips and kept feeding me tennis ball after tennis ball from her side of the court."
The top-seeded Spurck whacked a steady diet of winners on a sunny, gusty Saturday, matching the feat his mother netted 33 years ago to become Fremd's first state singles champion in program history. He defeated Hinsdale Central junior and fourth-seeded Alex Kotarski 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the final to cap his stellar 23-1 season.
Spurck's potent combination of speed, scrappiness, athleticism and skill proved too much for the hard-hitting Kotarski, a lively lefty who trailed 2-0 in the second set, went up 3-2 and held additional set leads of 4-3, 5-4 and 6-5 before falling 7-4 in the tiebreaker.
"Andrew wears you out," said Fremd coach Johnny Kent, who guided the Vikings to a program-best third-place showing (29 points, behind New Trier's 30 and champ Hinsdale Central's 36). "He's not only quick and fast. He's also good at staying balanced, even when he has to chase down a shot wide. Opponents think they're about to win the point after they put him in that position, but Andrew returns shots there as well as he does when he's hitting easy shots from the middle of the baseline."
Spurck won all of his service points in the tiebreaker. After winning match point, he whipped off his baseball cap, clenched his face and right fist, and then roared while looking at his ecstatic supporters in a bank of bleachers.
It was his way of saying, "Thank you."
"They gave me energy throughout the match," said a grateful Spurck, who avenged his only loss of the season with a 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Barrington senior and University of Penn-bound Deven Carse in a state semifinal Friday afternoon.
Fremd's other netters at the three-day tourney were sophomore Shashwat Srivatsa (4-2 in singles) and the doubles teams of Jason Sze/Amaye Shyani (4-2) and Ved Mistry/Stanley Zeng (1-2).
"Andrew loves to compete and win, and I told him, 'Enjoy this weekend,' but I know he's excited it wasn't just about him," Kent said. "He's truly happy about what the team accomplished."
Barrington's Carse lost only 3 matches this spring -- all to Spurck. The third-seeded Bronco edged Hersey junior and second-seeded Mitch Sheldon 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the match for third place Saturday morning, pacing Barrington's fourth-place finish (26 points).
"I hit deeper returns and shots in the second set," said Carse, who will aim to make Penn's Ivy League team as a walk-on. "I had to in order to get back in the match."
Barrington senior Gabe Mills and sophomore Shiv Sastry, a 5-8 seed in doubles and the reigning Mid-Suburban League No. 1 doubles champs, placed fourth on Saturday, bowing 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 to Hinsdale Central's Nathan Hernandez/Bodie Teuscher in the match for bronze.
Mills/Sastry finished with a record of 25-4.
"Gabe," Sastry said, "is a phenomenal doubles player. He's the best net player in the IHSA in my opinion."
"Shiv," Mills said, "set me up all season."
Stevenson nipped Hersey 21-20 for fifth place. Highland Park -- behind its state championship doubles team of Evan Glebov/Blake Gold -- took seventh (17 points), followed by Edwardsville (15), Glenbrook North (13), Waubonsie Valley (12) and Lyons (12).
Stevenson got a fifth-place effort in doubles from seniors Ervin Perkowski/Gautham Kappaganthula, who went 6-1 at state, losing only to top-seeded and state runner-up Chris Ackerman/Stan Okesson of New Trier in a three-set quarterfinal Friday morning.
Patriots senior Ashvath Madhushankar rebounded nicely after dropping a first-round singles match on Thursday, winning five consecutive back-draw tests.
Chicago Latin captured the 1A state championship with a dominant 44-point total. Runner-up Benet scored 20 points behind the Redwings' first state doubles champs, sophomores Zach Bobofchak and Hugh Davis.
Rock Island Alleman's Nicholas Patrick won the 1A singles title.
Vernon Hills took ninth (14 points), as the Cougars' top doubles team of Daniel Shchebalev/Aarush Vora won four of six matches and reached the semifinals of the consolation draw.