Freshman tips conference tennis scales in Blue Dukes' favor
Zhang edges HHS's Kammerait in decider
The match everyone came to watch was over a long time ago when dual meet tennis supremacy was decided in the North Shore Conference at about 8:30 p.m. May 5.
It came after a 30-minute rain delay and a move indoors to the North Shore tennis club, and among its spectators were defending state singles champion Alex Jesse of Homestead and Whitefish Bay's state place-winner Jack Larsen.
Jesse had beaten Larsen, 6-3, 6-4, but that showcase match was just a mere afterthought to the tremendous drama unfolding late into the evening as Blue Dukes freshman third singles player Wentong Zhang held off Highlanders freshman Will Kammerait, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6, to give the Bay boys an historic 4-3 victory over the returning state runner-up Highlanders.
"It took an hour and a half to play that final set," Blue Dukes coach Phil Kelbe said. "An amazing match. They're both freshmen and there was so much pressure on them, and here they were representing their teams awfully well.
"They were good kids, fair on the line calls. It got to the point where you hated to see either of them lose. … Just quality kids neither of whom showed a lot of nerves. Just amazing, Will (Kammerait) saved three unbelievable match points (before Zhang eventually won).
"Just really, really good for area tennis."
Highlanders coach Jackie Egelhoff agreed.
"It was extraordinary," she said. "They're both kids with similar games. It was just very exciting. At first, I don't think either was aware of what the match meant. We try not to do that to our kids. Just let them play their own match."
"But with everyone watching like that (late at night), it just had to be stressful for both of them. You just had to be so impressed with both of them."
Tied at the top
With the win, Bay, which had won a critical 5-2 decision over Nicolet the day before, moved into a tie in the dual meet point standings with the defending North Shore champion Homestead squad.
The overall league title will be decided May 19 and 20 at Nicolet.
The dual completely overshadowed the two teams' efforts in the powerhouse Nicolet Sweet 16 Tournament over the weekend, where the Highlanders took fourth and Bay seventh. Ten of the top 12 teams in the state were there, plus Illinois power New Trier, which wound up winning the event.
Other wins for Bay against Homestead included Ben Foran at second singles (6-4, 6-3); Matt Kavanagh at fourth singles (6-3, 7-5) and the third doubles team of Graham Martens and Peter Sandvick (1-6, 6-4, 6-3).
The Highlanders picked up victories from Jesse, the first doubles team of Nikhil Ramnarayan and Justin Kirtley (7-6, 4-6, 6-2) and the second doubles team of Ben Wilson and Peter Apfelbach (6-2, 6-3).
Long time coming
The effort was at the heart of a five day stretch of matches of the Blue Dukes, but Kelbe knew which one was the important one.
"It's been a long time since we've beaten Homestead in a dual," he said. "Just tough, tough matches."
And Egelhoff knows how much of an edge this will lend to the conference meet.
"It's really exciting for the tournament," she said, "and Nicolet is right with the both of us (Homestead beat Nicolet 5-2 earlier in the week). It's just all the better for all of us now.
"It's anybody's tournament now."
Sweet 16 results
BAY - beat Verona, 6-1; lost to Marquette, 4-3; lost to Middleton, 4-3; beat Brookfield Central, 4-3. Schedule: Cedarburg and Milwaukee Lutheran in a pair of North Shore duals; prom this weekend.
HOMESTEAD - beat Arrowhead, 7-0; beat Brookfield Central, 7-0; lost to New Trier, 4-3; lost to Marquette, 4-3. Schedule: at the Manitowoc Invite on Saturday with Marquette, Nicolet and Brookfield Central.
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