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St. Charles East boys tennis' Koenen among final four at state

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS – St. Charles East junior Jasper Koenen squandered a pair of match points in the second set of Friday’s state quarterfinal against Lake Forest’s Peter Tarwid, and soon found himself trailing Tarwid in the set, 6-5.

Already up one set on Tarwid, Koenen regrouped to hold serve and tie the second set, creating a tiebreaker.

He’d come this far. Win or lose, Koenen wasn’t about to play the pressure points meekly.

“I just knew I had to go for everything because I’m the underdog in that match,” Koenen said. “I just had to believe I could win that tiebreaker. He had the pressure on him to stay in that match.”

Koenen prevailed in the tiebreaker to beat Tarwid, 6-4, 7-6 (4), for his fifth straight win at the state tournament. He advances to a state semifinal match at 9 a.m. today against the tournament’s No. 1 seed, Hinsdale Central sophomore Martin Joyce.

Earlier on Friday, Koenen defeated University High’s Conrad Harron, 6-3, 6-4, in the round of 16. Koenen, a 9-16 seed despite only one loss on the season, pulled a pair of upsets on Friday; Harron was seeded 5-8 and Tarwid was seeded 3-4.

Koenen said his backhand was particularly potent Friday in several big points. He called a Tarwid shot long on the match’s final point, a call Tarwid questioned, but the chair umpire backed Koenen.

Koenen advancing to the final four of the state tournament marks the deepest push by a Saints player since Mark Barry finished third in the state in 2002.

A growing crew of supporters – even a contingent from St. Charles North, where his older sisters played – are rooting on Koenen, who said he won’t be intimidated in today’s semifinal against Joyce.

“I know Martin well,” Koenen said. “We play at the same club and see each other not in the high school season but in the summer and the fall and the winter. We see each other every day, and we practice together. We know each other’s games, we’ve played together in the same tournaments. I just view him as another player. I’m not going to view him as the No. 1 seed or anything because that won’t help me or my confidence.”

Despite his seed, Koenen said before the tournament this week that he thought he had a realistic chance to win it all. Having yet to drop a set, Koenen’s self-confidence appears to have been well-placed.

“I had to believe I could win those matches, and having that mindset before the tournament really helped me today,” Koenen said.

The other singles semifinal today will pit Waubonsie Valley’s Eric Marbach (5-8 seed) against Hinsdale Central’s Michael Lorenzini (9-16).

In other area action on the second day of the three-day tournament, St. Charles North senior Dominick Amalraj dropped the resumption of a darkness-suspended, third round consolation match against Joliet West’s Tom Carney, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, and the Marmion doubles tandem of Jackson Rettig and John Graft lost a fourth round consolation match against Evanston’s Sam Wiener and Connor Woolf, 6-0, 6-3.

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