ARLINGTON HEIGHTS – Stalking the baseline and waiting to wallop any soft return that came his way, Batavia singles standout Josh Cogan abandoned his usual playing style Thursday.
While the first day of the IHSA boys tennis state tournament brought Cogan comfort in his fourth straight state trip, a persistent wind forced the senior to accelerate his aggressiveness.
A trio of breezy victories against opponents from Decatur Lutheran, St. Ignatius and Vernon Hills suggested he was successful.
The lone Chronicle-area athlete remaining in the championship bracket, Cogan is set to face Naperville North’s Gordon Zhang in today’s fourth round at Hersey. Sweeping his opening day schedule for the third straight season, Cogan later discovered there was another similarity coming in his high school swan song.
Before both left the courts at Rolling Meadows, Zhang approached Cogan (32-0) to remind him the pair had met in a 12-and-under tournament in the mid-2000s.
“Usually you play someone every once in a while, so you can see their game and how it’s developed,” Cogan said. “This one will be interesting because we’ve both definitely changed a lot since our early teens.”
Earlier this season, veteran Bulldogs coach Bob Kummer discussed sophomore Ryan Sterling’s penchant for dwelling on the elements. Those talks eventually dissipated, but Sterling still put focus there.
For Cogan, a Washington University (St. Louis) signee, adjusting to the conditions was a quiet no-brainer as soon as he arrived on the grounds.
With only a Rolling Meadows restroom and lobby as shelter from the heat on a near 90-degree day, athletes and onlookers often headed for the shade of nearby trees.
Naturally, players toted something to drink when they did, Cogan included.
“He’s a pretty easy guy to manage in that way,” said Kummer, who plans to retire from teaching and coaching at Batavia at the end of the school year. “He knows to stay hydrated and had a ton of water and Gatorade in his cooler. He paced himself well and took care of his body.”
Sometimes that only accomplished so much around the collection of District 211, 214 and 220 courts hosting the tournament. After yielding only two games in his first two matches, St. Charles East sophomore Jasper Koenen dropped a third-round three-setter to Niles North’s Dave Bacalla, 2-6, 6-1, 3-6.
Threatening to tie the third set at 4-all, Koenen watched the match hinge on what should have been a play in his favor.
Bacalla shanked a shot that caromed off a back fence and out of play, creating an ultimately fortuitous delay.
“It was like a mental timeout for him,” Saints coach Rob Livermore said. “Jasper had him on the ropes and that allowed his opponent to collect himself. The turning point was kind of an unglamorous one.”
St. Charles North’s top doubles team of senior Danny Oakes and junior Dom Amalraj experienced a similar fate, cruising in their first- and second-round matches before encountering the tough Urbana University duo of Alex Mestro and Edo Roth.
Oakes and Amalraj (29-2) dubbed Mestro and Roth the top pairing they have seen this season “by far.” Both used strong forehands and tactical play to prevail against the North Stars, 6-4, 6-4, sending Oakes and Amalraj to a fourth-round consolation match against foes from downstate Edwardsville.
Staying overnight in the area, Oakes and Amalraj will resume play at 8 a.m. today at Prospect.
“It’s not a bad loss, the Urbana match,” North coach Sean Masoncup said. “Obviously we’re disappointed, but the great thing is we’ve got another day.”