A simply superb effort from Josh Cogan against defending state champion Blake Bazarnik brought the talented Batavia sophomore thisclose to forcing a third set Friday afternoon during the quarterfinals of the state tennis tournament at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.
Cogan came within a whisker of sending the 90-minute match to a deciding third set, if not for several magnificent shots and the veteran presence of the Vanderbilt-bound Bazarnik, who has made a habit during his four years to bend but not break just when it appears the affable senior is done for.
Cogan (32-1) suffered his first loss of the season 6-4, 7-6 (5), but in the process earned plenty of praise from his coach, Bob Kummer, as well as Bazarnik. Cogan will play in the backdraw at 8 a.m. Saturday against Jimmy Li from Wheaton Warrenville South at Prospect High School.
"(Josh) is a really fine player, and if he continues to improve his play, he has two great seasons ahead of him," said Bazarnik, who will face top seed Robert Stineman of New Trier at 9 a.m. Saturday in the semifinals.
The 3-4 seed appeared to have it in cruise control after his 6-4 first-set victory, but a gritty and determined Cogan wouldn't go away. He turned around the second set after falling behind 4-1 to win 5 of the next 6 games to force a tiebreaker.
"Josh always plays each point as hard as he can, he's done that all year, so he stayed under control, made some shots, and got himself back into that match," said Kummer.
"I didn't really have a good start in this match," said Cogan, who earlier defeated 5-8 seed Toby Ma (Deerfield) with ease (6-1, 7-5) to book his place opposite Bazarnik.
"But I tried to keep (Bazarnik) deep and stay in each point, but in the end, I just wasn't able to execute as well as I could have to force a third set."
The tiebreaker was a seesaw affair, with each taking turns grabbing the lead, which Cogan had for the last time at 5-, before Bazarnik drew even, then came to the net to make it 6-5.
"Bazarnik is a wonderful player, and you saw how his experience really came through for him when he needed to hit big shots to get points or stop any momentum Josh might have had going for himself," said Kummer. "But we're really proud of Josh with his effort during this match, and there is no reason for his weekend to end after this loss."
The same success story applied to the St. Charles North doubles team of John Mittvick-David Johnson, who picked themselves up after a disappointing early morning loss to Fremd (which later upset the No. 2 seed, Hinsdale Central) to win their final match of the day against Metamora, and stay alive to play another day.
"One of our goals was to be playing on Saturday, and the other was to be finishing up at Hersey (tourney host) and a chance for a top-8 finish. We're one victory away from doing that," said North coach Sean Masoncup.
Masoncup and his No. 1 team had a hard time finding anything to celebrate after falling much too quickly to Fremd, 6-1, 6-2 in its first match of the day, sending the duo into the backdraw and ending its hope of a trip over to Hersey for a quarterfinal match.
"We just weren't ever in that match with (Fremd) - they had us on our heels from the start and we just couldn't get anything going," said Mittvick.
"Those guys never found any type of pace or energy, and my biggest concern after that loss was how they would respond and get their heads on straight, because there was still plenty of tennis ahead for both of them," said Masoncup. "But they showed how much pride they have, and really came back to beat New Trier, then Metamora, who was a very strong team (themselves) and one that nearly upset Hinsdale Central's No. 2 yesterday afternoon."
Mittvick-Johnson opened play Saturday with a dazzling 36-4 record and have clinched a top 24 finish.
Teammates Parker Featherstone-Danny Oakes bowed out after dropping a long 3-set match to 9-16 Naperville Central (Billy Sterrett-Kevin Bauman) in the backdraw at the Buffalo Grove site.
The Stars' No. 2 team kept on going on Friday after a 3-set win over Warren (6-3, 4-6, 6-3) before running into Central.
"Those (two) have a lot to be proud of as well," said Masoncup. "They came into the tournament with 30-plus wins and earned another 4 more while (here), which was very impressive."