When it comes to a top five finish at the IHSA State Meet, the OPRF tennis team isn't about to relinquish its spot among Illinois' best. The Huskies know a thing or two about success on the court, having finished fifth in the state the last two seasons and tying for fourth at the 2006-07 state meet.
With the bulk of the team back, the goal for the Huskies is to maintain their status as a top five team, and, if the opportunity presents itself, better last year's finish by slipping into the top three.
"We certainly have the talent to be in the top five again this year," said OPRF head coach John Morlidge. "Whether or not we can break the top three is debatable, but it's not out of the question either. These players are back with a lot of experience and the team itself has depth this season, which isn't something we're real used to."
Devin Jones, Alex Gebert and Jacob Wilson are three state qualifiers back in the fold this season for the Huskies. Jones went 3-2 last year in singles action at the state tournament, but the junior has been nursing a sore back this season and may find himself playing doubles down the road.
"Doubles can be a little less taxing on a player, so Devin may be headed in that direction," said Morlidge. "No matter where he's playing, he'll do well."
Gebert and Wilson also have the versatility to play either position. The duo helped OPRF shut out Fenwick 7-0 in a dual meet in the season opener a few weeks ago with a victory at No. 1 doubles. Gebert, a senior, and Jacob, a junior, garnered three victories competing together at the state tournament last season.
Along with his state qualifiers, Morlidge has several players back with varsity experience. Mack Harris, Eric Bruynseels, Cameron Uslander, Tim McAdam and Luke Trinka were all on varsity last year. Trinka missed the bulk of last season with an elbow injury. The sophomore, who underwent surgery in the off-season, won his match at No. 1 singles against Fenwick.
McAdam, also a sophomore, will likely play doubles come playoff time, along with Uslander and Harris. Junior Taylor Christmas is another doubles player expected to contribute as the season progresses.
Freshmen Jeremy Dixon, Graham Lehman and D.J. Arends, provide Morlidge with quality depth.
"Dixon is a kid who can push the top guys," said the coach. "He's a big tournament player."
Sophomore Mitch Rasley is another high-caliber tennis player that could debut at state this season. Rasley was the No. 1 singles player on the Frosh/Soph team last season.
Last year's state champs Hinsdale Central will be difficult to unseat from the top spot of the West Suburban (Silver) Conference. The Red Devils return several players from last year, including singles players Krishna Ravella and Augie Bloom.
The Huskies travel to New Trier on Thursday. The Trevians finished third at state last year. OPRF returns home on April 13 (4:30 p.m.) to open conference against Glenbard West. The team will travel to Hinsdale Central for a tournament on April 24 and for a dual meet on May 4.