AURORA – Geneva resident John King wasn't sure how he'd fit into the powerhouse Marmion boys tennis program as a freshman.
Turns out No. 1 singles has suited King just fine.
"I honestly didn't know what I was going to play coming in to the year because we've got some really good players on the team," King said. "I just wanted to really make an impact on the team and help them win conference, and we obviously did that. It's been a good year. It's been a really good year."
King and the Cadets hope to add additional luster to the season at the West Aurora Sectional today and Saturday.
King (18-7) had an immediate comfort level with high school tennis since Marmion's coach, John Tsang, coached his older sister, Katie King, at Rosary. Tsang said he could tell King was ready for the rigors of No. 1 singles early when he played "a very smart match against a very veteran player," defeating highly regarded Lockport standout Lucas Randall.
A booming serve and forehand allow King to take on older, more seasoned opponents. Tsang noted that Marmion senior Jackson Rettig, who is eyeing his third straight doubles state berth this weekend, has a monstrous serve, and said King isn't far behind.
"[Rettig] has one of the biggest serves in the game, and John's right there, and John's a freshman," Tsang said. "So you can imagine as he progresses sophomore, junior and senior year, it's only going to get bigger."
King, though, said he doesn't always feel in the groove at the service line.
"Sometimes it's right on target, sometimes I just feel like I'm serving a second serve every single time," King said. "What I've learned is you've got to go up and hit the ball with confidence. That's really the key I think to my serve."
A potential second-round sectional match with Batavia standout Ryan Sterling could determine whether King will earn a spot in next week's state tournament field.
Regardless of how the weekend unfolds, Tsang projects King will blossom into a much more dominant force in the coming years.
"Some things I think he needs to improve is getting more consistency, getting more of his first serves, being able to attack the ball a little bit earlier," Tsang said. "He's still learning some of the tactics in terms of working the point and making sure that every shot that he makes is a meaningful shot."
While King is an on-the-bubble candidate to qualify for the state tournament, the Cadets' No. 1 doubles team of John Graft and Rettig is a relatively safe bet. The tandem has lost only once this season and recently won the top doubles draw at the Suburban Christian Conference tournament.
Rettig, a Sugar Grove resident who plans to play club tennis next year at Boston College, is on the verge of qualifying for the state tournament with his third different partner in three years.
Graft, whose father attended Marmion, makes the 45-minute trek to school from Barrington, and opted to make his schedule even more harried this spring by running distance events for the Cadets' track team in addition to playing tennis.
"It is a pretty crazy schedule but I had fun and I liked it," Graft said. "I had success in track and tennis. It's going to be fun because I'm running in a race June 8th, the Midwest Distance Festival, so I'm continuing my training but not running any meets and not running sectionals and state. I chose tennis [for the postseason]."
Marmion won a sectional title last year for the first time in program history. The Cadets would need to spring an upset or two to repeat that feat this weekend, with Naperville Central and Waubonsie Valley among the sectional's leading contenders.
"Marmion being a smaller school compared to the other big schools, I think we've made a big impression in the tennis community in terms of what these boys have accomplished," Tsang said. "We've had several historical seasons, and I think there's a great appreciation of the competition that we do have. Being able to perform the way we have is a great thing, so I'm really proud of this team and looking forward to a great weekend."