By Marty Farmer
With defending state champion Hinsdale Central in the way, the Oak Park and River Forest High School and Lyons Township High School boys tennis teams both knew winning the West Suburban (Silver) Conference boys tournament championship was a virtual impossibility.
The Red Devils, who have claimed 21 state championships plus annual recognition as one of the premier prep squads in the country, swept the three singles divisions and took two of four doubles competitions to win the conference tournament title as expected Saturday.
Hinsdale Central finished with 79 points overall this season to earn an outright league title. OPRF (68 points) and LT (56 points) rounded out the top three.
Tournament host OPRF performed well Saturday with victories in No.1 and No.3 doubles. The Huskies' top tandem of Graham Lehman and Jeremy Dixon rallied for a 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 win over Hinsdale Central's Harold Martin and Eddie Grabill in the marquee doubles match of the day.
OPRF's No.3 doubles Jonah Philion and Jake Richards outlasted Hinsdale Central's Ronnie Lorenzini and Jimmy Bruning 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 to notch the Huskies' other title.
In the top singles competition, Mike Lorenzini (Hinsdale Central) rolled to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over promising Glenbard West freshman Nate Dell in the championship match. Dell, whose father Mike played at Illinois State, defeated LT's Tom Nelson, 6-1, 6-3. In the other semifinal, Lorenzini swept past OPRF sophomore Miles Blim 6-3, 6-0 in an entertaining match loaded with scintillating baseline exchanges in the opening set.
Blim bounced back to claim third place with a 6-1, 6-4 victory against Nelson, who was playing up for the Lions, with Jake Elliot nursing an injury.
"I was happy with my first set [against Lorenzini] but didn't play well in the second," Blim said. "We've had some setbacks with our top player Jeremy [Dixon] being injured, but I think we had a very good regular season."
At No.2 singles, LT sophomore Cuyler Burke recorded a strong runner-up finish, losing to the Red Devils' Alex Hagermoser 6-3, 6-1 in the championship match. Burke advanced to the final with a hard-fought 7-5, 6-4 victory over OPRF junior Joe Charbel.
"I struggled a bit in the semi [against Charbel]," Burke said. "It's always tough to warm up [in] the first match. In the final, I knew it would be hard to compete with a player like Hagermoser. Obviously, he's a very good player with a big serve."
In the third-place match, Charbel dropped a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 heartbreaker to Brendan Peterson of York.
"I was executing pretty well and he made more unforced errors in the first set," Charbel said. "I kind of checked out for a few games in the second set and then it was just too big a gap to make up. In the third, a few balls that went his way really made the difference.
"Overall, I feel my game is better than ever and playing against good players is good experience for me."
The postseason kicks off this weekend with OPRF hosting a sectional including crosstown rival Fenwick High School. LT will compete in the Hinsdale Central Sectional.
"It's great we'll get to see Hinsdale again in the sectional and hopefully at state," LT assistant coach Dave Robare said. "Obviously, the West Suburban Silver is one of the toughest conferences in the state. It's nice how our season escalates from the conference tournament right into the playoffs."