Uni seniors seek long run
URBANA — Edo Roth and Alex Mestre spent their Monday unlike any boys’ tennis state qualifier did.
The seniors from Urbana University High, who will make their fourth straight trip to the state meet when competition begins today in suburban Chicago, were front and center during the NCAA Championships at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex.
Both were ball runners during Monday’s men’s semifinal matches between Virginia and Georgia and Ohio State and UCLA. They were stationed at the net, chasing down errant tennis balls and throwing tennis balls to players before they served if they needed any.
Mestre worked a Georgia-Virginia match and Roth had an Ohio State-UCLA match, which turned out to be the match of the day. Peter Kobelt of Ohio State double-faulted to give Marcos Giron of UCLA a three-set win and allowed the Bruins to escape with a 4-3 victory and advance to the national championship match.
“It was definitely a great tennis match,” Roth said. “For most of the match, there weren’t that many people watching it, but at the end, there was a lot of people there. I just thought, ‘Don’t drop the ball.’ ”
Roth didn’t. He and Mestre haven’t, either, when it comes to dominating the area tennis scene.
The duo reached the state quarterfinals last May before it lost a close two-set match to the Glenbrook South pairing of Michael Sellitto and Michael Levin, who went on to finish second in state. It was the best showing the players — who are a combined 11-6 at state — have had up north.
“Last year at state we were apparently the talk of the tournament,” Mestre said. “They were calling us the hicks that knew how to play tennis or something. We really came out of nowhere.”
This year Roth and Mestre are among the top 16 seeded doubles teams. After getting close to playing for fifth place last spring (the partners lost a consolation semifinal match that would have advanced them into the fifth-place match), they want to bring back some hardware and more recognition to Uni High this time around.
“Last year we definitely felt like we knew how to play with the big guys and the top teams,” Roth said. “That’s definitely a good mentality to have going into state this year knowing we feel like we can beat pretty much any team.”
The pair became friends in sixth grade and started playing doubles together in eighth grade.
“Chemistry is really important in doubles,” Mestre said. “We got that down right away.”
Mestre is a taller, more physical player than Roth. If they need an ace or a hard-hitting forehand, Mestre can handle those attributes, Roth said.
Conversely, Roth is the tactician.
“He’s got amazing angles,” Mestre said. “He hits the sickest shots I’ve ever seen. He’s the brains of the team. He’s got good strategy and stays positive, so he picks me up when I’m down.”
While the duo has become a consistent measure of Uni High’s tennis success the last four years, this past spring was the first time the Illineks actually had a team.
Mestre and Roth are effusive in their praise for Uni High athletic director Sally Walker and Uni High coach David Bergandine for making that a reality.
Roth said it wasn’t uncommon prior to this season for the duo to play doubles against adults during the spring in an effort to prepare for the postseason.
“Sally and Coach Bergandine did a great job this year,” Mestre said. “They’ve done so much work behind closed doors. We can’t thank them enough for everything.”
“It’s difficult for a small school to have a tennis team,” he said. “We’re really appreciative of all their efforts.”
Now Mestre and Roth will try to add their names to an exclusive list. No doubles team south of Interstate 80 has won a state title since Galesburg accomplished the feat in 1996, and no team from Champaign County has ever won a state doubles championship. The Danville tandem of Wilson Burge and Frank Noble accomplished the feat in 1960, but that’s the closest school in relation to Uni High that has achieved that milestone.
“I think we’ll do well this year,” Mestre said. “We’re pretty confident going in. It’s our last shot, so we want to make it special.”
Ready, set, go!
Alex Mestre and Edo Roth aren’t the only area representation we’ll have at the state tennis meet, which was scheduled to begin today on courts at various suburban Chicago high schools. Here’s who the four singles players and three doubles teams will meet in the first round:
Austin Aten (Champaign Central) vs. Varun Parekh (Barrington)
Sunny Singh (Centennial) vs. John King (Aurora Marmion Academy)
Travis Tressler (St. Thomas More) vs. Jake Bennett (Troy Triad)
Tyler Ellis (Danville) vs. Michael Lorenzini (Hinsdale Central)
Alex Mestre/Edo Roth (Urbana Uni High) vs. Zach Wood/Ryan McMillan (Downers Grove South)
Michael Yoo/Gabe Mitchell (Champaign Central) vs. Connor Sommer/Edward Mueller (Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin)
Peter Kim/Andrew Scaggs (Centennial) vs. Dylan Koth/Chris Mecherle (Normal U-High)