Drought ends as Joliet West wins sectionalProvidence's Jack Zeeman came in fourth place in the singles IHSA boys sectional tournament held at Joliet West. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 21, 2011 9:09PM
The pride was evident as veteran Joliet Township tennis coach Kit Gillman completed presentation of the individual awards, hoisted the sectional championship plaque and presented it to ... himself.
As coach of the Joliet West co-op boys tennis team, Gillman also was the director of the Joliet West Sectional, which concluded Saturday morning.
“Finally. It’s been 22 years since this has gone to a Joliet Township team,” Gillman said, noting West won a sectional title in 1989. “We’ve been close, but one of my teams had never won a sectional. This was a biggie. It’s pretty emotional.”
The Tigers won the sectional with 26 points to 24 for Joliet Catholic Academy. Lockport was third with 15, followed by Providence 12, Lemont 11, Plainfield North 6 and Bolingbrook 4. Plainfield East and Romeoville failed to score.
Joliet singles players Jack Carney and Collin Shea held true to their seeds, finishing 1-2, and the Tigers’ doubles tandems of junior Andrew Drummond and junior Chris Zuniga and junior Frank Spesia and senior Jacob Menengon both won twice before being eliminated, helping push the Tigers to the top in the team competition.
Joliet Catholic was dynamite in the doubles draw as top-seeded Ian Barr and Austin “A.J.” Naal beat their suprising teammates, the unseeded duo of Zach Siegried and Nate Naal, in the final.
“It was nip-and-tuck with JCA (for the team title),” Gillman said. “All our boys did everything they could do. That’s why we won.”
Carney, a slender sophomore who also won the sectional title as a freshman, and Shea, a junior and a starting offensive tackle on West’s football team who advanced to state in doubles a year ago, form a unique mix on the tennis court. But both know how to win. A week ago, they switched gears and teamed up to take the SouthWest Suburban Blue No. 1 doubles title.
“It was great that we got to play each other in the finals,” said Carney, who won the battle 6-1, 6-3 to raise his season record to 29-2. “I thought it was a great match. Collin has an amazing serve. It just wasn’t on today like it usually is.”
“I wasn’t on and he played the best I have ever seen him play,” said Shea, who is 30-2 for the season. “But it was awesome to play Jack in the finals and great that our whole team was involved in winning the sectional. Our doubles players helped us a lot by winning two matches each.”
“That’s the best part of this whole thing, winning as a team,” Carney added.
Shea said he favors doubles over singles, but “I will do whatever the team needs, and this year they needed me in singles. I think I made a pretty good transition to singles. I had some tough matches, but my experience from doubles helped me a lot.”
Prior to the championship match, neither Joliet finalist lost a set in the tournament. In the semifinals, Carney beat junior Jonathan Pacheco of Lemont, the No. 4 seed, 6-0, 6-0, while Shea downed sophomore James Zeeman of Providence, the third seed, 6-2, 7-5. Pacheco was a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Zeeman in the third-place match.
The top four singles finishers and the top four doubles finishers advanced to the state meet, which begins Thursday at Arlington Heights and other neighboring suburbs.
Barr and Naal, both juniors, claimed their first sectional title after finishing second as freshmen and third as sophomores. They figured to be difficult to beat this time around as they upped their season record to 26-5.
“There was some pressure as the No. 1 seed, but we were undefeated outside the (East Suburban Catholic) conference against the teams here, so if we played our game, we knew we should be OK,” Naal said.
“We’ve had some letdowns along the way, but we’ve been pretty good for the most part,” Barr said. “I’m happy overall.”
The stunner of the tournament probably was the second-place finish of Hilltoppers sophomore Siegried and freshman Nate Naal, A.J.’s brother. All they did was win four matches en route to the finals, including consecutive victories over the sixth, fourth and second seeds, before falling to Barr and A.J. Naal 6-3, 6-1 in the title match.
“We didn’t think about seeds. We just went out and did our best,” Siegfried said. “We have played together all year, and today and (Friday) probably were two of our better days.”
Nate Naal noted the duo “played consistently, and we came back to win tiebreakers twice when we were down.”
Barr and A.J. Naal beat Lockport sophomore Lucas Randall and junior Austin Polk, the fifth seed, 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals, while Siegfried and Nate Naal beat Plainfield North seniors Stephen Wilder and Niel Bruyer, the No. 2 seed, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6). Randall and Polk finished third with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Wilder and Bruyer.
Siegfried and Nate Nall won earlier matches by scores of 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) and 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, so they overcame a series of strong challenges. Why not one more in the final while they were at it?
“Oh, no, we couldn’t let that happen,” Barr said with a smile.
“No, we wanted to shut them down,” A.J. Naal added.
Regardless, Joliet Catholic coach Scott Algood was happy.
“This was a great day for us,” he said. “We got the No. 1 seed and held it, and our second doubles team had a great tournament. They really stepped up. We knew what they could do, but they had to come out and beat some good competition.”