AURORA – As the second and final day of the Metea Valley boys tennis sectional got underway Saturday, those that had reached the semifinals knew they were headed to the state meet.
And even though that pressure was gone, that didn’t make the semifinal and championship round battles any less intense.
Naperville North would win the team title with 15 points and the host Mustangs (14), Glenbard West (13) and Waubonsie Valley (12) followed. Each team qualified two entries apiece to state competition.
“This is awesome for the program,” said North senior Zach Slade of the team championship. Slade won third place in singles.
The state meet begins Thursday with Hersey High School in Arlington Heights as tournament central with competition also at surrounding schools.
The singles championship came down to two players that know each other very well. Glenbard West’s Sullivan Monteith defeated Waubonsie’s Elliott Dam 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
Dam and Monteith train with each other.
“I’m proud of the way I played. It was a couple of points here and there, I’m glad I got the big points,” Monteith said.
The senior is no stranger to the state meet having placed sixth last year in doubles competition with the now graduated Andrew Immink.
He said he feels comfortable at singles, but it was an adjustment.
“You are all on your own and you can’t hang on to another player. I played some USTA (United States Tennis Association) tournaments, when it’s not the high school season, and that helped me adjust for singles,” Monteith said.
Dam is also returning to the state meet and said there’s a difference between him in 2021 and this season.
“I think I am a little more mature. My shot selection is better and I’m more patient,” he said.
Slade defeated Metea’s Aadit Gandhi in three sets, 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 6-2.
The doubles title went to the Naperville North duo of Nathan Lee and Dovydas Jasinauskas who prevailed over Metea’s Akshay Baid and Nikunj Tyagi, 6-0, 6-1.
Both pairs are experienced state competitors with North’s duo having reached the fifth round of consolation bracket play last season and Baid and Tyagi reaching the fourth round.
The sectional took place at the Rush Copley Healthplex Fitness Center in Aurora due to rain.
“We played real well,” Lee said. “The first match indoors was a bit of an adjustment, but during the second match, we were more comfortable and aggressive at the net.”
The third-place doubles match went to Glenbard West as George Bender and J.T. Gialluisi won over Waubonsie’s Zexin Jiang and Pranav Inampudi, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1. Bender and Gialluisi are returning to state. It’s Jiang and Inampudi’s first trip as a doubles pair.
“Both of us play club throughout the year. Our consistency is better,” Bender said.
Gialluisi said the experience shows.
“We’re more confident and we don’t get as mad while playing,” he said.
Jiang and Pranav are a recent pairing in the doubles competition.
“It’s just the second time we’ve played doubles. The big thing is there is not a lot of chemistry, but we’ve gotten to know a lot about each other,” Pranav said.
Jiang commented that while the competition at sectionals is excellent, it will take a step up at state.
“All the teams have good players that have been playing for years just like us. The players that have a better mindset, stamina and place the ball well will succeed,” he said.