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Boys Tennis: Marmion Qualifies 4, Claims West Aurora Sectional Title

Through The Fence: Batavia’s Josh Cogan returns a serve on Saturday.

Marmion continued its historic season on Saturday when two singles players and one doubles team qualified for state as the Cadets finished in first place at the West Aurora boys tennis sectional.

Senior Will Graft and sophomore John Graft took second and third place respectively in singles, while the doubles team of senior Chris Pattermann and junior Jackson Rettig finished third.

“The boys made history. It’s the first time in a long time, if ever, that we won a sectional title,” Cadets coach John Tsang said.

The Cadets went undefeated in the regular season and were champions of the Suburban Christian Conference.

Marmion topped all teams with 25 points, while Naperville Central and Waubonsie Valley tied for second with 18. Batavia (16) came in fourth.

Batavia senior Josh Cogan, who tied for ninth at last year’s state tournament, knocked off Marmion’s Will Graft 6-2, 6-1 in the singles championship.

Cogan, a four-time state qualifier, was able to overpower Graft with his serve.

“The serve felt really, really good. I was hitting it really clean,” said Cogan, who claimed the sectional title for the second straight year. “I got into a rhythm, and I wasn’t really thinking about it. I was just stepping up to the line and hitting it.”

Waubonsie Valley’s senior duo of Deep Chatterjee and Abhi Singh defeated the Naperville Central team of junior Danny Albert and sophomore Wesley Lo 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in the doubles championship.

With temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, Singh said the third set was mentally and physically challenging.

“It was just mental toughness,” Singh said. “Both teams were really tired, we both won a set, and basically, it was whoever wanted it more.”

Singh qualified for state the previous three years in singles, but Chatterjee will be playing at state for the first time.

The Redhawks’ No. 2 doubles team of Matt Mason and Justin Gillette placed fourth and will be joining Albert and Lo at state. Marmion’s Pattermann and Rettig knocked off Mason and Gillette 6-7, 7-5, 6-1 in the third place doubles match.

West Aurora senior Matt Kuntzi qualified for state after a fourth-place finish. Marmion’s John Graft defeated Kuntzi 6-2, 6-4 in the third place singles match.

West Aurora and Metea Valley tied for fifth place with eight points. IMSA (6), East Aurora (4) and Aurora Central (4) followed.

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Boys Tennis: Neuqua Valley Takes First At Upstate Eight Valley Tournament

South Elgin’s Andre Norasith serves at Saturday’s UEC Valley Tournament.

Neuqua Valley left no doubt that it is the top team in the Upstate Eight Valley at Saturday’s conference tennis tournament at Waubonsie Valley.

The Wildcats won six of seven tournament title matches – including all three singles – on their way to finishing in first place with 83 team points.

“I think we’re really privileged in the respect that we do have depth,” Neuqua coach Trudy Bennorth said. “I can just pretty well count on all of them, it makes it really special.”

Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley tied for second place with 47 points. South Elgin (36), Lake Park (33), Bartlett (13) and East Aurora (3) rounded out the seven team conference.

Neuqua first singles Mike Baiocchi knocked off No. 1 seed Andre Norasith of South Elgin in quick fashion, 6-1, 6-2, in the title match.

“I felt my serve was pretty much what got everything else going,” Baiocchi said. “If I’m serving real well, everything else just falls into place.”

Norasith, just a sophomore, was the Storm’s highest finisher at the tournament.

The Wildcats also got first place finishes from second singles Tim Worley and third singles Naveen Krishnan.

Neuqua’s Jack Warning and Andi Kosova and Waubonsie’s Abhi Singh and Deep Chatterjee met for the third time this season in the first doubles final. After the duos split the earlier meetings, Warning and Kosova won Saturday’s rubber match 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 6-1.

“We definitely wanted that. The match was the deciding one – best two out of three,” Kosova said. “It was also a good boost going into sectionals and state.”

Neuqua’s third doubles team of Jeff Ohmer and Amit Iyer and fourth doubles team of Zach Bauernfein and Colton Luburgh also took home conference titles.

Waubonsie’s second doubles team of Mike Cioffi and Alex Tadeuch were the only first places finishers not from Neuqua. In just their fifth match together, the Warriors duo overcame an early deficit to knock off Metea’s Bill Finnerty and Nick Ohl 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

“The first set we couldn’t get our serve returns in play. We were kind of letting them win the match just by us missing,” Cioffi said. “In the second set we started turning it around just by getting balls in play.”

Cioffi and Tadeuch are now 5-0 as a pair and will play together at next week’s West Aurora sectional.

In addition to Finnerty and Ohl, Metea received second-place finishes from third singles Kevin Brown and third doubles Rishi Sriram and George Lin.

Of the seven title winners, six came into the tournament seeded first. The only upset occurred in first singles where Neuqua’s Baiocchi, the No. 2 seed, knocked off South Elgin’s Norasith, the No. 1 seed.

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun, Aurora Beacon and Elgin Courier. It appears here.

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Boys Volleyball: Sophomore Simmons Shines As Waubonsie Knocks Off Metea

The teams gather on the court pregame for the National Anthem.

Waubonsie Valley has made a habit this season of coming back from the brink of defeat. Things were no different on Tuesday as the Warriors fought off five game points in the second game of their 25-23, 28-26 victory over host Metea Valley.

The Warriors had previously come back in matches against Marist and Glenbard West.

“We know that when we get in that position, we can come back. It’s not a done deal,” said Waubonsie Valley coach Al Lagger. “We know that’s prime time for us, we can step it up and do what we need to do.”

Waubonsie Valley (24-5, 4-0) trailed 24-20 in the second game on Tuesday before going on a 5-0 run that featured a kill and block from outside hitter Mike Storm.

The Warriors then lost back-to-back points, and faced another Mustangs game point – their fifth – at 26-25.

Waubonsie came back again to win three straight points, the last coming on an ace by middle Seth Salmon, to win the game and the match.

The back-and-forth second game featured 12 ties and seven lead changes.

Outside hitter Mike Simmons, who led the Warriors with 16 kills, said the team’s practice routine – with a threat of running – has helped build a never-say-die attitude.

“We have a lot of fight. We’ll never quit on a game, we always know we can come back and win,” said Simmons. “At practice, we always start off down and have to come back and win the game or else we have to run. That really helped today.”

Setter Luke Furman had 21 assists, two kills and two aces, Storm had eight kills and an ace and middle Tyler House had two kills and two blocks as the Warriors improved to 4-0 against Upstate Eight Valley competition.

Simmons had eight kills in the Warriors’ 25-23 opening game win. After Metea tied the game at 21-21, Simmons had two kills and a block as the Warriors went on a 4-2 run to finish off the game. The 6’6” sophomore’s perfectly-placed tap over two leaping Mustangs on game point gave the Warriors an early advantage.

Simmons’ strong play on Tuesday drew high praise from Lagger.

“He’s a consummate leader. He puts the ball in play when he has to, he swings hard when he has to,” said Lagger. “He’s a very intelligent player. If he sees a triple block, he’ll go up there and tip it in over the block.”

Outside hitter Martin Krasuski had seven kills and two blocks and opposite hitter Adam Miller had five kills and five blocks to lead the Mustangs.

Metea Valley (19-10, 2-4) coach John Aister is looking for someone to step up late in games for the Mustangs.

“I’d say half our losses this season have been just like today,” said Aister. “We’ve been up in a match, we’ve had control of a game, and we just can’t finish. We just need that one person to close for us.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here

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Boys Baseball: Rajewski Tosses Shutout As Benet Beats Waubonsie Valley

Going into Thursday’s game against Waubonsie Valley, Benet starting pitcher Jordan Rajewski just wanted to keep his team in the game.

The right-handed junior did that and more, tossing a complete game shutout as the Redwings defeated the visiting Warriors 8-0.

“I just wanted to hold them to low runs, and set up the next guy,” said Rajewski. “I had no idea I’d go that many innings, I just wanted to keep the game close.”

Rajewski scattered seven hits and one walk over seven innings while striking out two batters. The junior was able to keep the Warriors off balance by mixing up his pitches.

“I started off throwing off-speed, and got them out in front. Then I just tried to paint the outside with fastballs,” said Rajewski. “I really had them guessing.”

Rajewski was able to work out of some first inning trouble. Waubonsie Valley had runners on second and third with just one out after Warriors catcher Tyler Josupait doubled to right field. However, Rajewski struck out Warriors third baseman James Palasz and got Warriors outfielder Zac Steele to line out to Benet second baseman Chris Stout to end the inning unscathed.

Benet coach Scott Lawler thought his pitcher’s first inning escape set the tone for the rest of the game.

“I think what really set him [Rajewski] apart was that first inning. He got out of the jam, and I think that was a big statement inning for him right there,” said Lawler.

In the second inning, the bottom of Benet’s lineup produced the Redwings’ first two runs.

No. 8 hitter Greg Arend reached base on an infield error, allowing Andrew Mogni to score the game’s first run. No. 9 hitter Billy Tumpane then drove in No. 7 hitter Joe Boyle on a sacrifice fly to center field.

Benet (4-2) pulled away with a six-run fifth inning. Stout capped off the offensive explosion with a single to right field that drove in Arend and Tumpane and put Benet up 8-0. Stout had three hits and two RBIs to lead the Redwings on offense.

“I’ve been up in big spots in a couple straight games and I haven’t really come through. I’m just getting more confident, and I’m looking to be more aggressive at the plate,” said Stout. “In the fifth, I stayed back on a first-pitch curveball and got the hit.”

Waubonsie Valley (2-2) coach Dan Fezzuoglio said his team had too many mental breakdowns on Thursday.

“We just can’t have them. They’re a good team, and credit to them for swinging the bats, but we have to do a better job from a mental standpoint to keep us in games,” said Fezzuoglio.

Lawler believes his team has taken on the right attitude this season and that it has led to early success.

“They’re hardworking kids. I think there are some high school teams out there that probably could make a few mistakes and still win. But we can’t, and the kids know that. We have to play well to win,” said Lawler.

“We’re scrappy, and I love the kids.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Boys Baseball: Waubonsie Valley Rides Palasz’s Strong Outing To Victory Over West Aurora

Behind six strong innings from pitcher James Palasz, Waubonsie Valley earned its first victory of the season on Monday, defeating visiting West Aurora 6-1.

It was bounce-back game for the Warriors, who were no-hit by York’s Greg Castello in the team’s season opener on Saturday.

“After getting no-hit against York on Saturday against a good pitcher, we really needed to have a good solid team win, and that’s what this one was for sure,” said Waubonsie Valley coach Dan Fezzuoglio.

Palasz picked up the win after allowing just three hits and one run over six innings. The right-handed senior struck out five hitters while walking three.

“It was a cold day, definitely a pitcher’s day, not a hitter’s day,” said Palasz. “I just wanted to throw strikes, and I think I did a good job of it.”

Fezzuoglio said Palasz gave the Warriors exactly what the team needed.

“We look at James as one of our leads on the mound and we think our strength this year is pitching,” said Fezzuoglio. “That’s what we need out of a senior who had experience on the mound last year.”

After failing to produce in the season opener, the Warriors’ offense struck early on Monday, scoring three runs in the first inning.

Zac Steele’s ground-out to second base brought home Mitch Stefani for the Warriors’ first run. Mitch Gill and Troy Fumagalli both added RBI singles later in the inning and the Warriors led 3-0.

“It was really important for us to get on the board early,” said Fezzuoglio. “On a cold day like today, we wanted to put pressure on the defense and see if we could scratch a few runs across the plate.”

The Warriors (1-1) added three insurance runs later in the game. In the fourth inning, Tyler Hasper’s sacrifice fly brought home Fumagalli and Sean Grannan scored on a throwing error. In the sixth inning, C.J. Lee’s single drove in Hasper.

Ryan Vasicek relieved Palasz and struck out one batter in a perfect seventh inning.

West Aurora pitcher Tanner Reichardt gave up five runs and seven hits over six innings. The Blackhawks (1-2) struggled on defense, committing five errors.

Adam Lipscomb, Richie Renner and Alex Pope were responsible for the Blackhawks’ three hits.

Palasz believes Monday’s win will be the first of many for the Warriors this season.

“I don’t think people expect a lot from us this year, that’s the vibe around the city. But, we’re going to surprise some people,” said Palasz. “We’ve got a good squad. We’ve got a lot of juniors stepping up and our senior leadership is very good.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Girls Softball: Sophomore Trio Leads Naperville Central To Victory Over Waubonsie Valley

Naperville Central got a boost from a trio of sophomores Thursday afternoon as the Redhawks defeated Waubonsie Valley 4-2 in Aurora.

Pitcher Keegan Hayes picked up the win after giving up two runs and three hits over seven innings. Center fielder Maddi Doane had three hits, including a triple, and two stolen bases while catcher Kaitlyn Skarecky hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning.

“You feel pretty good when you have a sophomore pitch a game like that, have a sophomore hit a two run homer and have a sophomore hit a triple and steal two bases,” said Naperville Central Head Coach Andy Nussbaum.

Hayes was impressive in her first career start. The sophomore retired 19 of the first 20 batters she faced before giving up a single and two-run homer in the seventh inning. In total, Hayes gave up two runs and three hits while striking out six and walking none.

Nussbaum said Hayes got off to one of the best starts he’s seen in his long tenure of coaching.

“To retire 19 out of 20 to start the game, we’re talking about four or five performances in 29 years we’ve had that have been like that. That’s pretty good,” said Nussbaum.

Hayes credited her teammates for giving her the confidence she needed to pitch well.

“It’s easy to come out confident and pitch well when you have hitters, and we had a great lineup today,” said Hayes. “Everyone was on their A-game. That helped a lot.”

The Redhawks (2-0) got on the board in the second inning after Dana Dolehide’s single brought home Laura Dierking. Naperville Central went up 2-0 later in the inning when an infield error allowed Dolehide to score.

After Doane hit a triple with one out in the fifth inning, Skarecky launched a two-run homer to left field that put the Redhawks up 4-0.

The Warriors (0-1) would get their only runs of the game on a two-run homer by Erin Hohman with one out in the seventh inning.

Waubonsie Valley head coach Alyson Kelley was impressed with the Warriors’ defense, but noted that the team must start focusing more on hitting.

“I was really, really impressed with our defense. We have done so much defensive work in practice that we’ve kind of left hitting off to the side a little bit, and it showed up today,” said Kelley. “We’re going to start focusing more on hitting as well, so we come full circle and we have everything going for our next game.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun and Aurora Beacon. It appears here.

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Girls Water Polo: Naperville Central Scores Early and Often In Victory over Waubonsie Valley

Naperville Central center Abbey Kerth scored two early goals to jump start the Redhawks’ 14-1 victory over Waubonsie Valley on Tuesday night in Naperville.

The senior scored the game’s first goal just 16 seconds into the opening period. Kerth tallied another score less than a minute later and the Redhawks jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.

The Redhawks scored four more goals in the first period and led 6-0 after just seven minutes.

“We always swim the other team really hard at the beginning,” said Kerth. “We’re a really fast team and always counter-attack. We always want to get ahead.”

Kerth and Madison Nervig both had three goals to lead the Redhawks. Jenny Doyle and Kristina Altuve added two goals apiece, while Gracie May, Lauren Gunn, Jamie Schweikart and Michelle Spaits each had one goal.

“We were just doing our normal offense today, and we made a lot of good passes,” said Kerth. “We really wanted to win, obviously, against another Naperville team. It’s always fun playing teams in our sectional.”

Waubonsie Valley (1-7) was held scoreless until three minutes remained in the fourth period when Kim Palmer scored the Warriors’ first and only goal. The Redhawks were able to dominate possession of the ball, holding the Warriors to just seven shots in the game.

Despite the score, Naperville Central (11-0) head coach Jeff Plackett said Tuesday’s victory was anything but easy.

“I don’t think anytime you play another team from this area you can call it an easy victory,” said Plankett. “While the scoreboard says one thing, there’s a lot more going on under the water that people just don’t see.”

The Redhawks have won their first 11 games of the season, but Plankett still sees room for improvement in his squad.

“We just need to be consistent for four quarters. Today I thought there were a couple of times in the game where we got a little bit complacent,” said Plankett. “We got behind the offensive player, maybe we dropped our hips and it caused an ejection. So, tomorrow we’ll have more of a defensive focus during practice.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun and Aurora Beacon. It appears here.

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