The goals for the OPRF boys tennis team have been pretty consistent in recent seasons: Finish second in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference and earn a top five showing at the state tournament.
Last year, it was mission accomplished again for OPRF, which took second in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference behind Hinsdale Central and tied for fifth in the state with two other schools.
While a conference title and state championship remain the ultimate aspirations, those achievements are understandably difficult to attain with annual state powerhouses like defending state champion/conference foe Hinsdale Central, Lyons Township and state runner-up New Trier, along with other North suburban teams like Lake Forest, Stevenson and Deerfield in the mix.
Rest assured though, the Huskies appear loaded per usual this spring with three returning state qualifiers leading the charge in seniors Jeremy Dixon, Graham Lehman and DJ Arends. Coming off 20-plus win seasons, Dixon and Lehman are excellent ball-strikers with plenty of athleticism and experience, while Arends is a very skilled doubles player.
Declan Siefkas, Miles Blim, Jonah Philion, Mike Berens, Ben Foster, Sam Dull, Kyle Hahn, Joe Charbel, Christos Angelos, and Jake Richards bring depth and versatility in the lineup.
"We lost three outstanding players [Luke Trinka, Tim McAdams, Mitch Rasley to graduation]," OPRF coach John Morlidge said. "We have a nice mix of seniors and juniors this season. Obviously, Hinsdale Central is very tough but we're hoping to do well in conference and get everybody qualified for state."
The Huskies kicked off the season by winning their Rudy Witsman Invitational on Saturday. OPRF earned 48 out of a possible 60 points en route to the title. St. Ignatius (34), Evanston (32), Loyola (31) and cross-town rival Fenwick (22) rounded out the top five of the eight-team field.
"I think we did very well," Morlidge said regarding the Huskies' home tournament debut. "Our doubles teams really cleaned up."
Tinkering with lineups early in the season, Morlidge paired Dixon and Lehman in No. 1 doubles. The talented tandem cruised to the top doubles title with three convincing victories culminated with a 6-3, 6-0 over Loyola's team of Hovanek and O'Neil in the final.
The Huskies' No. 2 doubles Arends-Philion and No. 3 doubles Berens-Foster also ran the table with three wins and a title.
In No. 1 singles, Siefkas dropped a tough three-setter 4-6, 6-4, 5-7 to Fenwick's Colin Fitzpatrick. At No. 2 singles, Blim lost 4-6, 2-6 to St. Ignatius Christopher Scott in the championship match.
"Declan's result was probably the only disappointment," Morlidge said, "although, the Fenwick kid [Fitzpatrick] is a good player. It was a very competitive match."