Athlete of the Week
Panchapakesan wrapped up an undefeated Fox Valley Conference season by winning the FVC Tournament on Tuesday at No. 1 singles. He will try to qualify for state for the second time Friday and Saturday at the Jacobs Sectional.
Sectional seeds: If the seeding holds at the Cary-Grove and Jacobs sectionals, the area would send seven singles players and eight doubles teams to the state May 29 to 31.
The top four place winners in singles and doubles at sectionals qualify for state.
For some, such as Panchapakesan, it could be a return to state. That experience is invaluable, but Panchapakesan said the focus right now is just on qualifying.
“I know what to expect [at state],” Panchapakesan said. “[But] the first priority is getting to state.”
Others, such as Prairie Ridge senior Matt Cox, are looking to qualify for the first time. Cox and Danny VanBosch are the No. 1 seed in doubles at Cary-Grove. VanBosch qualified in doubles last year with Jack Lamar.
After winning the No. 1 doubles title at the FVC Tournament with a laid-back approach, they said they gained a lot of confidence with the conference title and don’t want to change anything going into sectionals.
“I think we have confidence to know we can win those big matches,” Cox said. “I think we’re going to go in with the same attitude of not expecting to win and having fun.”
McHenry’s Nick Higgin and Jake Maher, the No. 2 seed in doubles at C-G, also have split state experience. Higgin qualified last year in doubles with Dennis Quitalig.
Also seeded in doubles are Prairie Ridge's Matt Altman and Garrett Locher at No. 3 and Johnsburg’s Joe Nikolai and Christ Schmidt at No. 4.
Nikolai and Schmidt earned the seed with a fourth-place finish at the FVC Tournament as an unseeded team.
In singles at Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central’s Josh Pudlo is the No. 1 seed but faces the question of whether he can survive the tournament. He has been battling a shoulder injury the past year-and-half and now is bothered by his hamstrings.
Pudlo had a grueling three-set loss to Hampshire’s Elisha Hougland in the FVC semifinals and then defaulted in the third-place match against Prairie Ridge’s Ryan Kohl. In their FVC Fox Division dual last week, Pudlo had to default to Hougland in the third set because of severe cramping.
Kohl is the No. 2 seed followed by Prairie Ridge's Hayden Dzurisin at No. 3 and Crystal Lake South’s Nick Thome at No. 4.
At Jacobs, South Elgin’s Andre Norasith is the No. 1 seed in singles followed by Panchapakesan and Hougland. At last year’s Elgin Sectional, Norasith beat Panchapakesan in the semifinals and Hougland in the finals, both in three sets. Jacobs' Kendrick Chong is the No. 4 seed.
In doubles at Jacobs, Matt Toomire and Riley Rowan are the No. 1 seed, and both look to qualify for state for the first time. Rounding out the doubles seeding are Huntley’s Matt Frederick and Jake Grabner at No. 2, Hampshire’s Jake Dahlberg and Chad West (No. 3) and Dundee-Crown’s Brad Spangenberg and Chad Wagner (No. 4).
For complete seeding and team assignments, see Fine Print page C6.
This week’s top meets
Jacobs and Cary-Grove sectionals
2 p.m. Friday
9 a.m. Saturday
Local players look to qualify for state with a top-4 finish.
IHSA State Finals
Various sites (hosted by Hersey)
Opening-round play begins at the three-day season-ending tournament.
– Rob Smith