By Marty Farmer
According to Oak Park and River Forest High School boys tennis coach John Morlidge, it's important for the Huskies to find the correct combinations. That's a fairly common objective for any tennis coach, especially early in the season.
Fortunately, Morlidge will have plenty of players to choose from in forming the best singles and doubles lineup.
Sean Wangelin, Ian Smith, Elijah Carter and Ben Manola are the varsity returners.
Wangelin, a three-year varsity player, and Smith will likely play No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively. Wangelin split four matches in sectional play last year to earn a state tourney berth, while Smith came close, losing to sectional champion Lennon Braeton (Lincoln Park) in the quarterfinals.
"Ian played awesome and definitely deserved a better seed," Morlidge said.
Manola and Carter are returning state qualifiers with ample experience in doubles.
Zach Zeigler, Ben Pickering, Addison Dick, Neil Ferarjo, Simon Petrick, and Jacob Skar are new additions to the varsity. Promising freshmen Mark Trinka and Aiden Klass could also contribute this spring.
"Our team has a lot of depth but not any superstars as of yet," Morlidge said. "Most of our kids want to play singles; however, you can often score more points at state in doubles."
The Huskies finished third in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division behind Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township last season. Hinsdale Central placed third and LTHS tied Hinsdale South for 14th in the Class 2A state tourney last year.
OPRF won its own sectional and qualified five players for the state tournament in 2017. Playing indoors at the Tennis and Fitness Centre in Oak Park, the Huskies squeaked by St. Ignatius 23-20 to win their sectional. OPRF's state qualifiers were Wangelin in singles and the doubles pairs of Tom McNeil and Manola, and Ryan Murray and Carter.
Like a pitching ace in baseball, it's always nice to have a top singles players in tennis. Junior Carlos Gutierrez certainly fits that description for Fenwick.
He went undefeated in conference matches and advanced to the state tournament for a second straight season in 2017. At state, Gutierrez won three matches to finish in the top 20. The Friars' other state qualifiers Nico Halter, from Oak Park, and Mike Prabhu graduated last year.
In addition to Gutierrez, senior Marty Nield and junior Brendan Kane are key varsity players this year. Junior Phil Sandor and sophomore Pierce Butler could see playing time in both singles and doubles. Seniors Liam Collins, Chris Sedlacek, Ethan Magrady, and Josh Simpson are varsity returners, while Liam Magrady, Jack Sandor, Matt Walsh and Mike Dillon are newcomers to the squad.
Fenwick went 11-8 with a 5-2 record in the Chicago Catholic League last season. The Friars placed fifth in conference, third in a Class 1A sectional and tied for 11th in the 1A state tournament.
Fenwick has beaten Providence 7-0 and De La Salle 3-2 in its two dual matches this season.
"This is a great practice team right now," Fenwick coach Gerard Sullivan said. "They are hard-working, focused, and high-energy players who have shown improvement. We will see what kind of a competition team they are over the next few weeks. How they take the inevitable knocks and bounce back will determine where we end up. A top-10 finish in 1A state is a safe and enticing target right now for this team."
The Friars will compete in the Rolling Meadows Invite on Saturday, April 7. Matches start at 8 a.m.
Answer Book 2018
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