Oak Park-River Forest's Joe Charbel hits a forehand against his Elmwood Park opponent during the OPRF Sectional at Taylor Park. | Curtis Lehmkuhl/for Sun-Times Media
OAK PARK — Four Oak Park-River Forest tennis players qualified for their first state meet thanks to their performances in Friday’s early rounds of the OPRF Sectional.
The Huskies actually qualified the maximum number of players (6), two singles and two doubles teams, for next weekend’s event in the northwest suburbs. Only No. 1 doubles team Jonah Philion and Miles Blim, both seniors, have prior state experience.
That doubles team, the duo of seniors Christian Angelos and Jake Richards, and senior singles players Kyle Hahn and Joe Charbel all won two matches, advancing to Saturday’s semifinals. While all semifinal participants qualify for state, they will be playing for seeding at next week’s event.
While OPRF lacked state experience, expectations were high for the Huskies entering Friday’s sectional, and the home team didn’t disappoint.
“We were seeded pretty high in the tournament — doubles were the first and second seeds — and we won pretty handily today. Our singles guys were the first and fourth seeds,” coach John Morlidge said.
On Saturday, top seed Philion/ Blim will face the Maine West duo of junior Patrick Czuj and sophomore Henry Nguyen, the No. 6 seeds. That team came from behind to record a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over the No. 4 Elmwood Park tandem of senior David Sierant and junior Matt Ziuzia in a state-qualifying match.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 Angelos/Richards will meet the No. 5 seeds from Maine South, junior Nick Salgia and senior Peter Demke, in Saturday’s other semifinal.
OPRF’s Hahn, the No. 1 seed, dropped just one game on his way to Saturday’s semifinal against Fenwick junior Colin Fitzpatrick (No. 3). Fitzpatrick competed in doubles at state last year, but he has made a smooth transition to singles this spring.
“[Fitzpatrick] played No. 1 all season,” Fenwick head coach Gerard Sullivan said. “His serve has really come together this year and he’s hitting a big first serve. His game has gotten a lot more water-tight and less sloppy now that he’s played a good 25 matches this season. He’s putting away balls he should.”
Saturday’s other singles semifinal will pit No. 4 Charbel against Taft senior Brandon Wozniczka, who has captured the sectional crown the last two years.
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