ELGIN – On a day devoted to individual performances, Kingsley Bernardo was focused on his team.
He had his own graduation ceremony to get to later that day, and a doubles championship match to win, but the Jacobs senior willed his boys tennis team to victory Saturday in the Elgin Sectional.
“The motivation to win sectionals and be the champion, not only [individually] but team-wise,” he said of his on-court inspiration. “Pointswise, if we won that match, we would win sectionals, so that was just motivation enough.”
Kingsley and partner Brandon Sidor won their championship, 6-0, 6-3, to advance to state along with teammates Kristian Bernardo and Keegan Gaspari, who lost in their third-place doubles match, and Kailesh Panchapakesan, who defeated teammate Kendrick Chong in the third-place singles match by injury default.
Players from South Elgin and Hampshire also qualified for Saturday’s finals, which was played early to accommodate District 300 graduation ceremonies, but Jacobs amassed the most team points by qualifying two singles players and two doubles teams for state.
“Our first [match] went really long, and Brandon was getting [upset] because he thought we would be late [for graduation],” Kingsley said. “But we just stayed focused – we’re going to graduate when we graduate.”
In the championship singles match, Hampshire senior Elisha Hougland battled back for a third set against South Elgin’s Andre Norasith, but lost, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, in his first sectionals appearance as a singles player.
“I couldn’t get very many balls deep into the court, so I was just trying to grind through, get every ball and not get frustrated when he hit a bunch of winners,” Hougland said. “I really wanted the title, so I didn’t want to give up and let my coach and my family down.”
Jacobs coach Jim Benson didn’t let Kendrick Chong take the court after dehydration-induced leg cramping forced the freshman to withdraw from semifinal play Friday. That meant freshman Panchapakesan won by default, but both freshmen are headed to state.
“Literally, every one of his muscles in his legs were locking up – enough where he’s yelling on the court, laying on the ground,” Benson said. “The kid’s a fighter.”
In the third-place doubles match, Hampshire’s Chad West and Jake Dahlberg, both juniors, sweated out a three-set win over Kristian Bernardo and Gaspari, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.
“I’m ecstatic about moving on to state, especially after moving up to one doubles this year,” West said of his first sectionals appearance that resulted in a first-ever state ticket. “That’s a big improvement for us.”
Hampshire coach Jon Betts was pleased with all three of his players in the finals.
“We played a really gritty third-place match there,” he said of West and Dahlberg’s match. “Both teams had some tough points. And Elisha really came out with some confidence against a player who we know is just phenomenal. I couldn’t be more proud of how they all played today.”