CHAMPAIGN — With Gunveer Singh closing in on a No. 3 singles victory Monday night, the Centennial boys' tennis freshman heard a quick bit of applause from just outside the confines of Lindsay Courts.
It came from a Champaign Central athlete, giving some backing to teammate Gus Rossow after Singh committed a return error against his senior competitor.
So Singh responded, raising his racket in the air and silently slapping his free hand against the webbing just a few times.
All in good fun, Singh said afterward.
So were most of the Chargers' results in this crosstown rivalry showcase.
Singh landed one of Centennial's five singles triumphs and teamed with Thomas Scaggs to pick up the No. 1 doubles win, securing a 7-2 success in Big 12 Conference action.
"It's just another match," Singh said. "Just go in, play my game, come out, get the win."
One of two ninth-graders holding down a singles slot for Centennial coach Teri Scaggs, Singh cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 result. Fellow Chargers newcomer James Braun worked around the Maroons' Ethan Gulley 6-2, 6-0 at No. 5 singles.
"They came in with a lot of history," Teri Scaggs said. "It's nice to know that it's not only the two that are in the top six, but we've got a couple of other freshmen that have come in, and they may not be at the varsity spots right now, but they have potential."
Singh is the younger brother of former two-time News-Gazette All-Area Player of the Year Sunny Singh, a 2015 Centennial graduate. On top of that, Gunveer Singh has been involved with tennis since he was 3 years old.
"The future's going to be bright, I can tell you that," Singh said. "But you've just got to focus, got to work day in and day out."
"(Gunveer) plays in a lot of USTA events and really has a passion for tennis," Teri Scaggs added. "He's got the drive and hunger for it because he's seen his brother."
Braun is on a different wavelength, according to Scaggs.
A talented athlete in his own right, Braun is gearing up for this week's FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship in Detroit.
Yet he's still able to slide into the lineup during his spare time and make an impact for the Chargers.
Combine Braun and Singh with proven veterans such as Jared Thomas, Thomas Scaggs, Will Thomas and Albert Ostoja-Starzewski and it's easy to understand why Maroons boss Scott Davis feels "Centennial's got a great team."
"We knew it would be a tough match for us," Davis said. "The kids competed, and we're down the last few years, but we're starting to come back."
That vibe was epitomized Monday by Nick Gunn, who rallied from a first-set defeat at No. 2 singles to stall Thomas Scaggs 6-7 (7), 6-4, 10-7.
"He's just a guy that, he's got a very steady demeanor," Davis said. "He doesn't get upset. He doesn't get too high, too low, which in tennis can be great."
But outside that effort and the No. 3 doubles pairing of Brayden Helfer and Isaiah Elsts snaring another point, the day belonged to the Chargers.
Singh is enjoying being part of that atmosphere, regardless of the final outcomes.
"I've seen more ... how the team builds me up, boosts me up in confidence when it's a close match," he said, "and helps me get through hard times during the match."
He didn't find his back against the wall too often in his first dual with Central.
Teri Scaggs knows, however, that even though Singh and his cohorts offer plenty of promise, things won't always work out so well.
It allows her to better appreciate the solid campaign her pupils are putting forth.
"Even though (the Maroons) may not be as strong as us in some positions, they've got kids that can keep the ball in play and keep us on our toes," Teri Scaggs said. "We just have to go out and perform in the singles and doubles courts."