Boys’ tennis’ success flies under radar


Katie Ellsworth

Adelakun lines up for an ace.

The wind sways the trees back and forth, and leaves rustle as the two-time defending state champion boys’ tennis team takes the court. The leaves accompany passing cars as the only resonating noise, excluding the players themselves.

Sitting there, something felt a little off. So, what’s missing for arguably the nation’s best high school boys’ tennis team? A student section with the audible rowdiness that matches the team’s success.

The Hinsdale Central boys’ varsity tennis team started the 2014 season by taking home the Division A title at the DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships. The Devils took home the honor for the second year in a row, proving their worth against 16 of the country’s best high school teams.

Not only did the Devils clinch their second straight title, they dominated the rest of the field, winning 33 of their 36 total matches in Louisville, KT. Led by Co-MVPs Martin Joyce, junior, and Michael Lorenzini, junior, Central defeated Saint Xavier in the finals.

The team’s success is comparable to winning a national high school football championship, and, if that had been the case, I am sure the news would be plastered all over the school. Nonetheless, the boys’ tennis team continues to fly under the radar, possibly because tennis banners in the gym are commonplace.

“There’s always pressure to win, being a part of this program,” Joyce said. “Every year, people expect us to win state. It’s not a goal, it’s an expectation for us, and so with that comes pressure to meet those expectations. But, I think that the team doesn’t let it affect us and continues to work to achieve what we’re setting out to do.”

And that is exactly what they have done. After returning from the national tournament in Louisville, the Devils shut out both Naperville Central and Deerfield before heading to the Downers Grove / Benet Invite. There, they defeated Moline, Deerfield, and New Trier to win the event.

They will look to continue their streak on Monday, April 21 as they host conference rival York. The Devils are no doubt the team to beat in state, and for good reason. From defending state champion and Ohio State commit Martin Joyce to Valparaiso signee Chase Hamilton, the roster is an opponent’s nightmare. From top to bottom, they hold unprecedented talent.

“Our team is loaded with talent, and it makes practice a lot more enjoyable as well as beneficial,” Joyce said. “We’re all pushing each other to get better every day.” With such a deep lineup, the Devils are, in fact, seeing some of their best competitors in practice. “There’s definitely an advantage to it,” Joyce said. “So many guys on our team could make deep runs at the state tournament and, because of this, we’re basically playing some of the toughest competitors in Illinois at practice every day. By match time we already know what to expect.”

This is not a one team deal either. As the back to back state and national titles prove, the Devils continue to roll in new, young talent every season.

“Every year, we’ve got real tough guys who graduate, but what’s so special about this school is that every year there are guys coming in to replace those guys,” Joyce said. “Every year I’ve been here, there are six or seven guys who could be playing on singles for at least 80 percent of the schools in the state. That’s just the depth we have right now.”

Despite this – the story’s success, D-I talent, and more – the student invented ‘Code Red’ has yet to seep into tennis and other spring sports. The revival of school spirit that saw approximately 900 students attend an away basketball game at LT has yet to bring in even half that number to a tennis meet. According to Joyce, this stems from a multitude of reasons.

“I think (we lack student support) because people have the perception that tennis is just a country club sport that doesn’t have excitement,” Joyce said. “People don’t realize that it can be really entertaining to watch, especially with some of the talented guys we have on this team.”

The rowdy, rambunctious sign bearing “Code Red” can still make their presence felt, despite some misunderstandings about the tennis atmosphere.

“It’s not a quiet sport either,” Joyce said. “Fans can come out and be loud and get into it. I think people don’t realize this and don’t realize how much fun they would have, as well as the players, if a big crowd came out.”

So, even if you aren’t a tennis whiz and can’t appreciate one of the most talented teams in the country with loads of Division I talent, at least come out to the tennis courts to make some noise and show your school spirit with friends.

I have doubts that all 900 students at the LT vs. Hinsdale Central basketball game thoroughly enjoy the game of basketball, but still students came out in full force because it became a great experience that friends could rally around.

For now, Code Red or no Code Red, the Devils will continue to focus on and only hope their sustained success can bring in student support.

“It’s definitely motivation,” Joyce said. “I’d love to have people out there watching and to have that energy buzzing out on the court. It’s definitely a goal of mine to have some people come out and support the team.”

See the Boys’ Tennis 2014 photo gallery for more photos.