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Youth is served at Naperville North tennis sectional
By Neil Shalin | Daily Herald Correspondent

Jimmy Li of Wheaton Warrenville South High School returns the ball back over the net during the final singles match of the tennis sectionals held at Naperville North High School on Saturday, May 23, 2009.


Brad Meyer

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Published: 5/23/2009 11:14 PM

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Based on the results at Saturday's Naperville North sectional, boys high school tennis in this area will be strong for years to come.

All four singles state qualifiers and four of the eight doubles qualifiers are underclassmen.

Singles qualifiers Gordon Zhang of Naperville North and Matt Hirsh of Glenbard West, are just freshmen.

"It's really great to make state my freshman year playing against older guys," said Zhang, who advanced to the championship match before losing to Wheaton Warrenville South junior Jimmy Li 6-2, 6-3. "My serve was going well the whole tournament and I played aggressively."

The host Huskies won their second straight team championship with 25 points and in the process also qualified both its doubles teams, sectional champions Reid Mutschler and Yasufumi Terada, as well as Elliott Giraud and Aniket Patil, who finished third.

Glenbard South was second with 15 points, Glenbard West and Wheaton Warrenville South were tied for third with 14 apiece and Wheaton North finished with 12.

"It's a great feeling to be part of such a wonderful team with all those great players," Zhang said. "And that we won conference and sectional."

Li, who also defeated Zhang in last week's DuPage Valley Conference final, has a great deal of respect for the Huskies' freshman.

"When Gordon and I play, he's always attacking," Li said. "He's always getting the ball back and trying to make me hit the extra ball."

Hirsh was also riding high until he faced Li in the semifinals and lost 6-4, 6-1.

He bounced back in the third-place match to defeat Glenbard South's Vince McPherson, a junior who also made state for the first time.

"I think being mentally tough was the key for me in this tournament," Hirsh said.

"I tried my best to not get upset. I was playing well in the first set against Jimmy. I was up 4-3, but he won. Then he dominated the second set."

"Matt has a great attitude for handling tough matches," said Glenbard West coach Jim Valleskey. "He has the kind of maturity that's rare for a freshman. You can't coach that. He's very consistent and he can hit out with the best of them."

Li sees a bright future for both first-year players.

"Matt and Gordon have great potential," Li said. "They have similar games. They have a great mentality and they never give up no matter what the score is. And they don't let anything bother them."

The Terada-Mutschler victory over Benet's Mark Angel and J.J. Donohue in the finals made it the Huskies f'ifth straight sectional doubles championship.

Will Exner and Jack Lorentsen, who finished fourth in doubles, also qualified for state.

It was Naperville North's second weekend tournament championship in a row.

Last week the Huskies, displaying incredible depth and versatility, won the DuPage Valley Conference title with a different lineup aside from Zhang at first singles.

In that tournament Terada won the second singles title and Mutschler teamed with Giraud to win first doubles.

Patil, whose victory at fourth singles decided the championship in the Huskies' favor, qualified for state as a doubles player one week later.

"Aniket is a great example of the quality of this team," said Naperville North coach Heather Henricksen. "He's a winner no matter what position he plays. He knows how to play calm and how to win. We have a lot of talent, and I'm comfortable no matter what position I put them in. It's nice to have so many options. This is really a special team."