Boys tennis: Vernon Hills celebrates first sectional triumph

By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 5/19/2017 10:56 PM

Morning rain forced teams indoors for Friday's boys tennis sectionals at Buffalo Grove, Cary-Grove, Carmel Catholic and Schaumburg.

And as day turned to night because of a lack of enough indoor courts to take on the necessary volume, state qualifiers were eventually determined at each site.

at Carmel: This Class 1A sectional went south to the Marriott Lincolnshire, and with an extra court or two, they were able to compete the entire sectional in one long day of tennis.

Vernon Hills, which this season went a program best 17-6-0, won its first boys tennis sectional team championship, outscoring runner-up St. Viator 15-13 on the strength of its doubles' teams, which totaled 13 of the 15 points the Cougars scored.

"This is a big day for the Vernon Hills tennis program," said Cougars coach Doug Gerber. "We had a terrific battle with St. Viator throughout the day, but with our No. 1 team (Cole Guillaume/Harsha Namburi, 17-7) winning the title, it was enough to get us our sectional crown."

The four-year varsity veterans defeated St. Viator's Nick Gattuso/Jack Aiello 6-3, 6-2 to cap a fine day for both teams, who proved to have enough firepower and depth to hold off third-place North Shore-Country Day (10 points) and Carmel Catholic (8 points).

"This is a dream come true for both of us, said Guillaume, who will attend Taylor University in Indiana next fall, where he will play soccer.

"From our very first point on, we were in control, and even with a little case of nerves, Cole and I played our best tennis possible," said Namburi, who will major in biology next year at Illinois.

The Cougars' No. 2 team, Matt Nguyen/Nikhil Mangtani, will join their teammates at the stae tournament following a third-place finish after bouncing back from a semifinal defeat against Gattuso/Aiello.

"That St. Viator No. 2 team was very good," said Gerber. "They got to everything and were very impressive all day long."

Senior Kyle Borst will be making his first visit to the state tournament next weekend after his solid effort, which ended with the Lions captain earning a third-place trophy after a victory over conference rival Jonathan Paulson, who also earned a first state trip.

"I went through a rough stretch during our last three weekend tournaments, but continued to work hard and focus, especially on my serve, which helped me rebound today and finally reach my goal of playing in the state tournament," said Borst, who was sixth at the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament a week ago.

"I knew Kyle could come back and get himself into the tournament, and I am very proud of him, our guys at doubles, and the entire team for helping us earn our best sectional finish in almost 10 years," said Lions coach Amy Ritchie.

Borst was sent into the third-place match after falling 7-6 (7), 6-3 to No. 2 Evan Fedin (North Shore Country Day) in the his semifinal. Fedin was later was beaten by No. 1 seed Nicholas Welker of Burlington Central in the final.

"I feel with me now competing at 1A this year, the chance for me to play for a state title is so much better," said Welker, a junior and two-time state qualifier. "I am more mentally and physically prepared for the grind that's ahead next weekend, and after two years of playing there, I feel that experience will help me tremendously."

"I wouldn't be surprised if all of us were watching the eventual state champion out there today," said Ritchie.

Paulson was a straight-set victim of Welker's in the semifinals, long after the Corsairs senior locked down his state visit.

"I worked really hard during the off-season with coach Kannenberg, especially with my forehand, and it really paid off for me this spring," said Paulson, who will major in computer engineering at Illinois.

at Cary-Grove: Tournament director Amanda Schuetzle wasted little time Friday morning when the rain came, forcing her quick decision to go to the Racket Club in Lake-in-the-Hills for the sectional she was hosting.

Once there, state powers Highland Park and Stevenson took over, with the Patriots sending all four of its entrants through. HP qualified two of the best in the state and enters Day No. 2 trailing Stevenson 24-16 in the team race.

Deerfield is tied with Highland Park, while MSL champion Barrington stands third overall with 10 points.

"Getting our entire team is a big step toward us being a top-five team next weekend at state," said Patriots senior Matt Harvey, who with doubles partner Brian Weisberg (16-4) is on a collision course with top seed Highland Park (Lew/Learner). They were easy winners at the top of the bracket and next face Ozzie Viswanathan/Arjun Sheelvanth (17-6) of Stevenson.

The Pats' No. 2 team beat FVC champion Prairie Ridge (Daniel Lamar-Patrick Nasta) 6-3, 6-2 in their state qualifying match.

In singles, the Stevenson 1-2 punch of Zach Kim (19-4) and Sam Komis (24-3) cruised into Saturday's 10 a.m. semifinals after having earned their state berth.

"After making to state last year at doubles (with Benjamin Bush), one of my goals was to make it back at singles, and it was playing doubles which really helped my game improve this year," said Komis, who next faces No. 1 Jacob Edelchik (20-1) of Highland Park.

Kim will meet Barrington freshman Bradley Yu (20-4), who topped Nick Thome of Crystal Lake South to secure a first state appearance.

at Schaumburg: Conant appears headed for a third consecutive sectional title after qualifying its entire team indoors at two sites, while earning the maximum 24 points -- 6 more than second-place Maine South (18) -- heading into the last day of the tournament, which will be played at Centre Court in Hanover Park.

Conant coach Dave Koleno watched his Nos. 1 and 2 at singles, Vera Iyer (16-4) and Andrew Milas (17-8) advance, in addition to both of the Cougars teams at doubles.

"We're in real good shape all the way around, and are close to locking things up first thing this morning," said Koleno in advance of the 9 a.m. start. "Everyone played well, especially Andrew, who had a very tough state qualifier with a great player and terrific young man, Markos Christoforou (Elk Grove), who unfortunately won't be making his second trip to the state tournament."

Milas earned a hard-fought 6-4, 6-3 over the Grens senior, and will now take on the top seed, Danilo Kovacevic of Maine South.

In doubles, the Cougars' sweep was highlighted by the No. 1 team of Nico Rosas/Kaahan Motwani (15-1), who roared through the top of the bracket. Their teammates, Michael Kim/Arjun Rao, defeated a pair of opponents to make the semifinals.

"It feels real good right now knowing I'm going back to state," said Rosas, a junior who said his performance last weekend with Kim at the MSL tournament wasn't up to par.

"I could have played better and handled myself better when we were struggling," said Rosas. "But it was a learning experience, and now, having Kaahan back alongside me will help me settle in and play with more composure as we go after a sectional title."

at Buffalo Grove: It will be an all-Central Suburban League semifinals Saturday morning after Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South dominated the field, with both sending their entire team into the 2A state tournament.

Tournament officials moved quickly after the early rain to set up shop at the Heritage Tennis Center in Arlington Heights, where two of the best in singles cruised past their counterparts.

Nick Marino (27-1) and Mark Wu (19-1) of Glenbrook North showed why they were named the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds with nearly flawless play, while the duo from Glenbrook South, Michael Bukhalo and Bryce McClanahan, were forced to work a little harder for their trip to state.

McClanahan had his hands full against Hersey senior Aidan Burke, who took the 2016 state qualifier to three sets.

"I didn't get to see much in his first match today because it went so quick for him, but for me, the attitude was I had nothing to lose, and that's the way I went out there in that first set," said Burke, who stunned the 3-4 seed with a 6-3 first set win.

"In that set, it was more about me playing smart and consistent, and him making the mistakes," said Burke. "But in that third set, I was feeling a little tired from the pressure, and he was able to take advantage."

Burke, who will play next fall at Lake Forest College, lost 6-2, 6-2 after his terrific start.

His Mid-Suburban League peers from Fremd at doubles fell just short of advancing when each lost in their state qualifying contest yesterday afternoon.

The Vikings' No. 1 team of Justin Piotrowski/Chris Stavrou were unable to slow Glenbrook South (Adas/Upperman), while their teammates (Yin/Hishinuma) had the same trouble with the No. 2 seed from Glenbrook North (Van Fairbanks/Nick Chalton-Perrin) in a 6-2, 6-2 loss.

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