At this point, it’s about focusing on what has been working.
Jacobs boys tennis coach Jon Betts said he’s looking for his top-two singles players, Kerwin Chong and Kyle Burton, to thrive on the aspects of their game that qualified them for the IHSA boys tennis finals.
“We’re looking for them to focus on their strengths,” Betts said. “Do what they do well. Use their forehands as much as possible.”
The duo will open Thursday’s Class 2A state finals hosted by Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, competing in singles for the first time, although both have qualified in years past in doubles.
For Jacobs, the bar was set high last year with a program-best 10th-place finish at state under the old one-class system. For the first time, the tennis finals are split into Classes 1A and 2A.
The Golden Eagles also qualified the doubles pair of Matt Kastritis and Winston Yau, who won the Huntley Sectional doubles tournament. In singles, Chong finished second and Burton took third.
“I’m just going to go in and enjoy it because there’s a lot of good players out there,” Chong said. “It won’t stop me from playing hard.”
Chong is making his third trip to state. The previous two he was paired with his older brother Kendrick Chong in doubles. Last year, the duo won their first two matches before losing in the third round.
Kastritis qualified last season while paired with Burton in doubles. Yau will make his first appearance. He and Kastritis only have played together for a few weeks leading up to the sectional.
“With Matt and Winston, they’re improving every match they play,” Betts said. “We’re hoping to see them continue to grow. We’re going to put in a lot of work, take off the rough edges and get them playing (well) together. I think every match we’ve seen, they’ve improved.”
Also qualifying in Class 2A is Huntley doubles pair Jack Soderwall and Jacob Wat. Wat qualified last season in doubles, while Soderwall is making his first state finals appearance. The two finished third at the Huntley Sectional.
“It feels pretty great,” Wat said. “Last year was different, it was (my) first time. But it still feels amazing.”
In Class 1A, Marian Central won the Lakes Sectional, qualifying two singles players and a doubles pair.
Ian Brzeski and Mike Dowling finished third and fourth, respectively, in the sectional singles tournament. The doubles pair of Connor Pivnicka and Sam Reckamp won the sectional doubles tournament.
Marian Central coach Craig Greenwald said it was one of the best sectional performances in Marian history. According to the IHSA website, the Hurricanes last won a sectional team title in 2003.
“I am super proud of these guys,” Greenwald said. “They looked awesome and we managed to get three out of our four teams state bound.”
The state finals for both classes begin at 9 a.m. Thursday and run through Saturday.
Kerwin Chong (Jacobs) vs. Martin Rayos del Sol (Romeoville) at Fremd
Kyle Burton (Jacobs) vs. Bryce McClanahan (Glenbrook South) at Buffalo Grove
Matt Kastritis and Winston Yau (Jacobs) vs. Elijah Carter and Ryan Murray (Oak Park-River Forest) at Conant
Jack Soderwall and Jacob Wat (Huntley) vs. Kirk Williams and Sam Liu (Naperville North) at Schaumburg
Ian Brzeski (Marian Central) vs. Adam Harrington (Providence Catholic) at Hoffman Estates
Mike Dowling (Marian Central) vs. Alex Bergendorf (Glenbard South) at Hersey
Connor Pivnicka and Sam Reckamp (Marian Central) vs. Quinn Camfield and Reese Bergstrom (Mattoon) at Rolling Meadows