What started as an incredible opportunity ended simply as an early learning experience for many Patch-area boys tennis teams on Saturday.
Despite having normally possessing some of the best talent in the state, Brookfield East, Nicolet and Whitefish Bay all dropped their opening matches and were quickly left battling on the lower half of the bracket at the annual New Trier Invitational, hosted this year by Marquette High School.
Brookfield East rebounded the best after its early loss, finishing fifth in the eight-team tournament.
Nicolet and Bay finished sixth and seventh, respectively, while New Trier, IL, knocked off Saint Xavier of Louisville, KY, for the title.
The invite always boasts some of the area’s top talent, and this year was no exception.
“You might not have, for the rest of this tennis season, better competition within a two-mile -quare radius,” Nicolet coach Tim Koppa said. “With New Trier here, Marquette (High School), University School, Brookfield East, the team from Kentucky was amazing … you may have just witnessed a better tournament than you’ll see at the state tournament.”
While Koppa’s team didn’t fair as well as it would have liked, it was still a good day for Nicolet.
The Knights dropped their opening match to University School, knocked off Neenah in their second match before falling to Brookfield East in their third and final competition of the day.
“My boys played pretty well for their first time out,” Koppa said. “Doubles played really well. Singles got some wins where they needed to and it’s a great first building block.”
One of the most competitive matches of the day came when Nicolet’s top doubles team of Richard Kim and Trevor Katzban took on East’s Chris Anguil and Ben Stewart. The unique paring of Anguil, a senior, and Stewart, a freshman, ended up taking the match in the back-and-forth, three-set affair.
“We saw our No. 1 doubles team kind of grow up today,” Brookfield East coach Steve Ward said. “They played exceptionally well. That’s a good win for them.”
The duo dropped their opening match against a very strong Saint Xavier squad before knocking off Bay’s and Nicolet’s top doubles teams.
As a whole, it was a very successful day for the Spartans. Sophomore Tim Corwin and freshman Felix Corwin won all three of their matches at the No. 2 and 3 singles spots, respectively.
One of the best stories of the day came from Whitefish Bay’s Wentong Zhang. The freshman missed the first two matches as he was at Northwestern University for a music competition. He made it back in time for the Blue Dukes' final match against Neenah where he took on the Rockets’ No. 3 singles player.
Having already had quite a long day, Zhang’s match went to a third frame before the skinny freshman finally put away his opponent.
“That’s hard,” Bay coach Carl Trimble said of the long day Zhang had. “But he did well. He’s a very nice player.”
Overall, the Dukes dropped their opener to Marquette and then lost to Brookfield East before rebounding against Neenah to finish in seventh place.