With the home stretch in view, the Saint Ignatius tennis program is in the midst of a gauntlet of top teams.
The Wildcats faced a Division II powerhouse on Tuesday in Hawken. By all accounts, the Tennis Cats passed with flying colors.
Bobbe Bennett's squad surpassed Hawken, 4-1, advancing to 6-1 on the season.
All five matches were very competitive, with the No. 1 singles contest being a prime example. Drew Barclay faced off against Neil Tewari, a strong foe, also a senior. Barclay and Tewari also matched up last year, with the Tewari earning a 6-1, 6-2 win. The result was similar this time, though Barclay took the contest to three sets. Tewari earned a nice 6-1 win in the first set, but Barclay made key adjustments in the second stanza. Barclay eked out a 7-6 victory in the second set, forcing a rubber match. Unfortunately for the Cats, Tewari emerged as the victory in the tiebreaking set.
"I'm especially proud of Drew jumping into the No. 1 spot and having a great comeback that came up a bit short against a tough opponent," Bennett said after the match.
Arul Mehta stepped into the No. 2 singles spot and worked his magic. Mehta topped Gabe Perla, a solid senior for Hawken. Mehta earned a 6-3 win in the first set before racing to a 6-1 victory in the second set.
Kenny Li worked his first singles match of the season in the No. 3 spot against Praveen Kimar, a promising freshman from Hawken. Li lassoed a 6-2 win in the opening set and galloped to a 6-2 victory in the second set to seal the deal. Not a bad way to earn your first singles win of the year.
In the top doubles contest, Thomas Deucher teamed up with his usual partner Jack McNally. The dynamic duo took care of business just like usual. Deucher and McNally clipped the top Hawken pairing in the first set, 6-2, and did even better in the second set. The Wildcats' first pairing easily handled the second set, 6-0.
Michael Nock teamed up with a different teammate in the No. 2 doubles spot – Jack Burns. The freshman-sophomore combo gelled well, experiencing no trouble in the first set en route to a 6-2 win. Nock and Burns kept the pedal to the metal in the second stanza, driving to a 6-2 victory.
"This was a great showing against a really strong Hawken team," Bennett said.
The Wildcats will be right back at it on Wednesday afternoon. The Tennis Cats will host the St. Edward Eagles in a rivalry contest at 4:30 pm at Magnificat High School.
Before the match, the Wildcats will honor the two seniors on the squad – Drew Barclay and Jack McNally. The two stars have delivered countless wins and memories for the Wildcats over the past four years, representing Saint Ignatius with class.
After Wednesday's match, the Wildcats will have an 8-day break. The squad will be back in action on April 25 at Solon.