A warning to Ryan Doeckel’s opponents at this week’s IHSA boys tennis state tournament: Doeckel is watching you.
Doeckel, the doubles partner of fellow Geneva junior Nick Huang, excels at the net, largely thanks to his powers of observation.
“Really just footwork and anticipating – watching the other players before you play them, and then while you play them,” Doeckel said. “And then in the specific point itself, where they’ve been looking, where they’ve been typically hitting the balls. A lot of it is anticipation. I’d say over half of it is that because there’s such a short amount of time when you’re both at the net to react.”
Doeckel and Huang won the doubles title Saturday at the Geneva Sectional, providing plenty of momentum for this week’s state tournament, which begins Thursday at sites across the northwest suburbs.
The juniors are in their first season as a double pairing for the Vikings but they played together extensively in the offseason at the Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora.
As shrewd as Doeckel can be sizing up opponents, Huang notes that his partner also is quite the athlete.
“His hands are extremely agile,” Huang said. “He’s very, very quick at the net, and I think that really is a weapon we can use as a double team.”
Doeckel also brings a quality serve to the tandem while Huang is regarded more for his strong, steady groundstrokes.
This week represents the second doubles state tournament berth for Doeckel, who qualified alongside graduated standout Collin Rapp as a freshman.
Doeckel and partner Brad Reedy were bounced short of qualifying at last year’s sectionals by a team from Lake Park that Doeckel and Huang defeated in the sectional championship match Saturday.
“When Nick and I beat that team in finals, it was kind of nice to get that win back,” Doeckel said.
Doeckel and Huang also won a hotly contested, three-set match for the second time this season against the St. Charles North team of Grant Spellman and Keith Hedges, who took third place at the sectional.
Doeckel played basketball at Geneva through freshman year before opting to specialize in tennis. He said he’s an independent-minded person, so tennis held more appeal than the traditional team sports.
While Doeckel and Huang earning a state berth was anticipated, the advancement of fellow Vikings tandem John Potts and Nick McCarty was an unexpected treat. Potts and McCarty were unseeded at sectionals but earned the fourth and final state slot in doubles.
Despite Doeckel and Huang winning the sectional title, they were unseeded in the state draw, which was released Tuesday afternoon.
St. Charles East singles standout Jasper Koenen was the lone area qualifier to earn a seed. He was issued a 9-16 seed in the singles bracket.
•áJay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.