Coach: Megan Rozboril, 3rd season

2017: Third in Class 1A sectional

Returning starters: Sr. — Adam Hanson, Prithiv Kumar, Vinay Vattikuti; So. — Gagan Kadadevarmath, Robby Pratt, Evan Turnbull.

FYI: Rozboril believes the program is making great strides and will be led this season by Adam Hanson, a two-time state singles qualifier, and Gagan Kadadevarmath and Evan Turnbull, who finished in the top 24 as freshmen in last year's state doubles.

"They're all hungry for more," said Rozboril. "When I took over the program three years ago they didn't have that mentality, 'We're going to state.' Now, it's becoming more of an expectation."

Kadadevarmath and Turnbull have really high hopes. "From the second they were done last year they've been focusing on this year," said Rozboril.

Prithiv Kumar and Vinay Vattikutti round out the top five singles players. Ram Vakkalanka and Robby Pratt, a doubles specialists last year, also have experience.

"Our 1-6 (in singles) have all played matches before," said Rozboril. "That's an advantage because they have knowledge of what they're doing."

Rozboril sees Normal Community as the Big 12 Conference favorite, but believes the Purple Raiders could make it into the top two after finishing third in 2017.

Central Catholic

Coach: Chauncey Nixon, 1st season

2017: Tied for fifth in Class 1A sectional

Returning starters: Sr. — Ben Holley; Jr. — Joey McGraw, Sean Rubey; So. — Liam Brady, Michael Costigan, Brian Wieland.

FYI: Chauncey Nixon, the director of adult tennis at the Bloomington Tennis Center, takes over as the Saints' coach. Nixon is a former Youngstown State assistant coach for the men's and women's programs. He inherits a program with about 20 players.

Ben Holly and Brian Wieland are the top two singles players, while Sean Rubey also was among the Saints' main singles players last season. "We have a lot of young players and people getting some time for the first time in their high school careers," he said. "We have some athletes which is a great thing. We want to make sure we're making them excited about the sport and they come out and perform."

One of those new players is James Morris, a standout on the football field and basketball court this school year. "As I told them, it would be a boring season if we lost to everybody we're supposed to lose to and beat everyone we're supposed to beat," Nixon said. "I would like to see an upset or two throughout the season. We expect to compete."

Normal Community

Coach: Roger Juers, 2nd season 

2017: Second in Class 2A sectional, Big 12 Conference champions

Returning starters: Sr. — Nachiketh Rotte, Shanku Nair; Jr. — Parker Honegger, Prajith Narendran. 

FYI: While Roger Juers doesn't believe his team will be quite as good as last season, when the Ironmen tied for the sectional title but lost on a tiebreaker, the cupboard isn't bare. "I still think we'll be one of best teams in (the Big 12) conference," he said.

Parker Honegger will be NCHS' top singles player and  reunite with Shanku Nair in doubles for sectionals. The pair advanced to state two years ago, while Nair played with graduated Bradley Rosario in last year's Class 2A state.

"Parker has improved a lot since last year," said Juers. "He had some really results over the winter, beating some good players. He's smart and tactically sound. He knows how to mix things up. He's consistent and added some power to his game."

After Honegger, Nair and Nachiketh Rotte, who went to state doubles last year with graduated Taras Sergeev, Juers said his next group of three singles players will come from Prajith Narendran (who was No. 6 last year), James Broach, Manish Pathuri, Adarsh Kurumbail and Dave Mantra. "A lot of these guys have improved a ton this year," said Juers. 

Normal West

Coach: Chris Golick, 1st season 

2017: Fourth in Class 2A sectional 

Returning starters: Sr. Nick Banser, Caleb Jirik, Matt Salm; Jr. — Matt Wettstone. 

FYI: Golick, a longtime Unit 5 music teacher, has replaced the retired Phillip Nevels, who had served for 23 years. Golick helped Nevels last season and is familiar with the players. "We have really good leadership and a great group of guys," said Golick. "Our top two players are very strong. The rest of the team is a real interesting mix. We don't get a lot of kids at West who've played tennis their whole life ... very few who have tennis experience. But they're out because they want to play and realize it's a sport for a lifetime."

Matt Salm, a state singles qualifier last year, is the Wildcats' No. 1 player. Golick said Nick Banser has worked "really hard in the offseason and probably will push Matt a little bit." Matt Wettstone and Caleb Jirik will follow Salm and Banser in the lineup, but after that Golick isn't sure yet among seniors Evan Beilfuss and Garrett Sheehan, junior Lennon Pile and sophomore Matt Merritt.

"We're going to give people tough matches," said Golick. "We'll win some at Nos. 1 and 2, but we just don't have as deep of a squad as other teams do."

University High

Coach: Jon Friesen, 4th season 

2017: First in Class 1A sectional, fourth in Class 1A state 

Returning starters: Sr. — Josh Friesen, Noah Litwiller; Jr. — Carter Burk, Dorath Chamarthi, Thomas Moh, Nick Klaus, Michael Craft, Mason Runkel. 

FYI: U High returns all its key players from last year's squad that finished fourth in the Class 1A State Tournament, the first year for two classes. However, Jon Friesen isn't ready to proclaim a run to the title for the Pioneers this spring. "We try not to set hard and fast goals. You know, you give it your best shot and you finish where you finish on a given day," he said. "We pretty much have the same team as last year. I guess you always want to do a little bit better."

Dorath Chamarathi is a two-time state singles qualifier who finished seventh last year. Josh Friesen and Carter Burk teamed together for the first time in doubles last year, after qualifying for state with other partners in the past, and placed fourth. Thomas Moh also qualified for state a year ago in singles.

"I would say they've all made steady improvements," said Jon Friesen of his top four players. "Several of them are maybe physically a little bigger, a little taller for a couple of them and maybe a little stronger."

U High, which has won two straight sectional titles, is competing in the Central State Eight Conference for the first time. The Pioneer coach said Springfield, Chatham Glenwood and Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin have enjoyed good programs in the past. "We'll be competitive, but I don't know what to expect," he said. 

– Compiled by Jim Benson



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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