For the second consecutive spring, the Oak Park and River Forest High School boys tennis team has all of its matches on the road due to continuing on-campus construction that has required the usage of the courts.
While it’s a situation that veteran head coach John Morlidge says his team has gotten used to, it’s still difficult.
“Having all away matches is a huge disadvantage, but it is the new norm,” said Morlidge, who has coached OPRF’s varsity since 1991. “It’s tragic for our upperclassmen that they haven’t been able to compete around their friends on their home turf.”
The Huskies return three players from last year’s sectional lineup: seniors Luca Lissuzzo, Dante Stukel, and Ezra Stukel.
“Luca is our #1 (singles) player and has a great all-around game,” Morlidge said. “Dante and Ezra are an experienced doubles team with much firepower.”
Cameron Khaledan, Will Neumann, and Trevor Wilson also have varsity experience for OPRF. Newcomers to keep an eye on are freshman Manu Ragagopal, who is currently playing #2 singles for the Huskies, and freshmen Alex Dolipschi and Eli Stein, who make up the 3rd doubles pairing.
“I have an outstanding group of young men,” Morlidge said. “They work hard every day in practice and are very appreciative of what they have. Myself and our whole coaching staff feel blessed to be able to work with these guys.”
Hinsdale Central has long been a powerhouse in the West Suburban Silver, and the Red Devils figure to be once again difficult to beat out for the conference title. OPRF is hoping to finish second or third in the league.
The Huskies also hope to win their sectional and qualify for state. It’s something Morlidge would like to accomplish while continuing to grow the younger players.
“Sending qualifiers to state is huge. Last year was the first time we didn’t qualify anyone,” he said. “Besides our three seniors, we are very young and want to develop for the next few years.”
Veteran head coach Gerard Sullivan has had youthful varsity rosters at Fenwick High School the last two seasons.
Last spring, the Friars had just two seniors and one junior in the lineup. This year’s lineup has one senior and five juniors.
“This is a spirited and energized team that works hard in practice,” said Sullivan. “They improve every day and will be ready to take what opportunities they get in the tough matches that lie ahead.”
Fenwick has posted a 2-2 record in dual meets this spring with wins over De La Salle and DePaul Prep and losses to St. Ignatius and Chicago University High. Among the Friars’ top players so far have been sophomore Jake Brecknock and junior Jack Harrison in #1 & #2 singles, respectively, and juniors Bobby Anzaldi and Colin Crotty in doubles.
“Jack’s game has really developed since last season, and he’s had some good wins and close matches against some strong opponents,” Sullivan said. “Jake’s game will take a while to gel as he’s mostly concentrated on soccer since last spring, but it’s starting to come together.”
Other notable Fenwick contributors are juniors Matt Carmody and Marty Morrissey and freshman Dave Schubkegel, whom Sullivan believes has “a lot of potential.”
Loyola Academy and St. Ignatius are the teams to beat in the Chicago Catholic League, and the Friars hope to at least finish in the top three of the league. They’ll need to hold off Marmion Academy in order to accomplish this goal.
Fenwick is also hoping to get assigned to a much more favorable sectional this year.
“Last year we were in the ‘group of death’ with the eventual (IHSA Class 1A) state champ (Chicago Latin) and a number of other players and doubles teams that would make All-State,” Sullivan said.