Boys Tennis: Naperville-area qualifiers prepare for three-day state finalsWaubonsie Valley's Deep Chatterjee battles Naperville Central in his doubles sectional semi final match on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at West Aurora High School. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 22, 2012 7:30PM
The Naperville area will be well-represented by three singles players and eight doubles teams when the state tennis tournament starts on Thursday at various locations in the northwest suburbs.
Naperville North’s Gordon Zhang, who will be competing at state for the fourth time, and Neuqua Valley, which has qualified its entire team (two singles and two doubles), will be trying to equal or exceed its ninth-place finish of last year.
Zhang, who is seeded 9-16, will begin the tournament Thursday at Rolling Meadows against Jake Bennett of Troy Triad. The Huskies standout said he’s hoping to be playing on Saturday in the final rounds of the three-day tournament, preferably in the championship bracket.
“Gordon is so positive and he’s driven to get better,” said Naperville North coach Heather Henricksen. “He knows he has to play his game and he has the maturity and the mindset to go after it. He’s identified his own weaknesses and he’s worked on them. I’m confident that he’s ready to go on to the next level this year.”
Zhang finished in the 9-12 group at state as a sophomore and he was in the 17-24 category last year.
The other Naperville singles players in the tournament are Neuqua Valley seniors Michael Baiocchi and Tim Worley, both returning qualifiers.
Baiocchi, who is seeded 17-32, begins the tournament at Hersey and he’ll be facing Andy Page of Wheaton Warrenville South, while Worley will be playing against Eric Pontow of Sandburg at Hoffman Estates in the first round.
“If Michael gets it in his mind that he can do it, he’ll be OK,” said Neuqua Valley coach Trudy Bennorth. “He has the talent. He just has to stay confident.”
The local schools found more success in the doubles field and they’ll be represented by eight doubles teams, including three sectional winners
Neuqua Valley’s doubles teams of Jack Warning and Andi Kosova, who won the sectional, and Kenneth Hoffman and Nick Wright are both going in unseeded.
Warning and Kosova will open at Wheeling against a duo from Effingham St. Anthony’s, while Hoffman and Wright will play at Elk Grove against a team from Olney East Richland.
“I’m not too happy that neither of our doubles teams is seeded,” said Bennorth. “But we’re playing the best tennis we’ve played all season and having both singles and both doubles in the tournament will help team scoring. We just have to keep the mindset that we have to go for it. We’re going to have to play well and we have to be consistent.”
Danny Albert and Wesley Lo of Naperville Central are the only Naperville doubles seeded, having been placed in the 17-32 position.
The Redhawks have to bounce back from a loss to Deep Chatterjee and Abhi Singh of Waubonsie Valley in the finals of last week’s West Aurora Sectional.
“Deep and Abhi played phenomenally,” said Naperville Central coach Dan Brown. “I’ll be interested to see what they do in the state tournament.”
Albert and Lo start play against a Quincy doubles at Buffalo Grove.
“After losing in the sectional finals, Danny and Wes are excited that they can bounce back and do well at state,” Brown said.
Bobby Martin and Matt Rurka of Benet will also be at Buffalo Grove against a team from Homewood-Flossmoor. If the Benet and Naperville Central teams win in the first round they will face each other.
“Bobby and Matt were both qualifiers last year with other partners, who have graduated,” said Benet coach Michael Hand. “This year was just a matter of them getting used to each other. Their sectional championship at Naperville North is clear evidence that the partnership is working.”
Chatterjee and Singh are at Barrington against a team from Chicago Brooks.
“Deep and Abhi really become a doubles team as the year went on,” said Waubonsie Valley coach Phil Galow. “You could see them improve their doubles game in every match.”
Both Naperville Central and Benet have a second team in the state draw and both will be at Palatine.
The Redhawks’ Matt Mason and Justin Gillette will open against a second Homewood-Flossmoor team, and Benet’s Grant Gatto and Noah Read will face a duo from Belleville East.
Naperville North’s doubles Steven Nguyen and Lee Charles will open at Fremd against the Fremd doubles Mike Artov and Matt Buesing.
“We had a lot of challenges this season,” said Charles. “It was nice that we could pull it all together at sectionals. We’re playing smart and our shot selection has improved.”