ST. CHARLES – There was a lot of chatter around the St. Charles East Invitational boys tennis tournament Saturday.
Some of it was typical shouts of encouragement from spectators: “That a way Jason!” “Let’s go Nick.”
But there also was some heated discussions between players, including an unpleasant exchange between St. Charles East standout Jasper Koenen and Libertyville’s Ben VanDixhorn in the No. 1 singles match.
“Everybody knows that was my point!” VanDixhorn shouted at Koenen near the end of the first set, which VanDixhorn won, 6-2.
Afterward, Koenen was apologetic about his role in the misunderstanding.
“I had a called a ball out right here and he didn’t hear me,” Koenen explained. “I was more upset with the way I was playing and so that anger I kind of took out on him. … It was just the moment. I was disappointed in how I was playing. I felt bad that I put my anger on him.”
Koenen was able to regroup and win the second set, 6-3, forcing a race to 10 points in the third set tiebreaker, which he won, 10-6.
“I came out really slow,” said Koenen, who improved to 15-0 on the season. “I just came out not moving my feet, not hitting the ball right. … I hung in there with not great tennis in the second set, but towards the end of the second set and the third set, I played some of my best tennis.”
Koenen said he had never played VanDixhorn before, but the two know each other well from having played in some of the same tournaments. Koenen gave VanDixhorn credit for playing well.
“That was my first opponent that’s really pushed me this season,” said Koenen, who breezed to the finals by not losing a single game in his first two matches. “That’s the first set I’ve lost this season. That’s what I need. I need someone to kind of push me.”
Koenen said teammate Justin Bowman provides that sort of tough competition in practice. Bowman, also 15-0 on the season, cruised to the championship at No. 2 singles by defeating Libertyville’s Eric Klein, 6-0, 6-0.
“Justin would be a No. 1 on a ton of teams,“ East coach Rob Livermore said. “He knows that, so he always focuses on keeping his level of play as high as possible in all of his matches.”
Koenen and Bowman’s titles helped the Saints finish second to Libertyville in the team standings. The Wildcats swept to victory in all three doubles divisions, though their No. 1 doubles team of Jack Springgate and Scott Daluga had to rally to defeat Nick Huang and Ryan Doeckel of Geneva, 5-7, 6-1, 10-8.
“I’m not upset because I’ve never been to the finals in this tournament before, so that alone is a victory,” Doeckel said. “But they were a beatable team.”
They looked especially beatable after Daluga began cramping up severely at the beginning of the second set, but he gutted out the rest of the match, which seemed to give the Libertyville duo an emotional lift.
“We, unfortunately, did not have enough momentum and energy,” Huang said. “It kind of was a snowball effect and they really got their energy in the second set and it carried over into the tiebreak. Unfortunately, that’s why we lost by such a small margin because they were more motivated than we were.”
Wheaton Academy’s best finish was a fourth place result for sophomore Chris Jones at No. 2 singles.