Boys Tennis: Doubles duo advances to IHSA State Championship

Seniors Owen Haas and David Wanner will represent the Rochelle Hub varsity tennis team at the IHSA State Championship this season. The two are pictured above with assistant coaches John Michael Loggins, Jeff Truckenbrod and head coach Kristy Eckardt. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Wanner and Haas win back-to-back matches to start sectional tournament

ROCHELLE — It’s been a full decade since Rochelle Township High School last saw a doubles tennis team advance to the IHSA State Championships on the boys side. Seniors David Wanner and Owen Haas looked to end that 10-year drought on their home courts Friday afternoon, when the Hub combo battled as the No. 6 doubles seed in the IHSA 1A Rochelle Sectional.

Looking to build on a championship performance at the Interstate 8 Conference tournament, where they successfully won the No. 1 doubles crown for the second straight season, Wanner and Haas began their sectional run in the second round, where they started strong and held off a valiant second-set effort to defeat Sycamore’s Alex Jenkin and Josh Plagakis 6-2, 6-4. The win moved the two seniors one match closer to clinching their first-ever state tournament bid.

Standing in the way of a ticket to the state tournament were Sterling’s Connor Pham and Elias Jensen, who defeated Wanner and Haas during the regular season and entered the sectional as the No. 3 doubles seed. While the Hubs took their first set convincingly, their opponents gained the advantage midway through the second set, earning a 4-1 lead as the duo looked to regroup for a late-set rally. With clear minds and a lack of focus on their prior mistakes, Wanner and Haas fought all the way back, scoring multiple breaks to flip the score 6-5 in their favor.

“We weren’t letting our mistakes get to us and we were helping each other whenever one of us made a mistake,” Wanner said. “That helped us to come back and finish the match. We played a lot of that set from behind, but we were in a similar spot at the conference meet and we were able to do the same thing there. We showed in the first set that we could put a full set together and we knew that if we could play our game, then we would have a good chance to win.”

The final game of the match wouldn’t come easy for the Hubs, as Pham and Jensen kept their hopes alive with a series of points after reaching deuce. But on their fourth attempt with the advantage and with Wanner on the serve, the seniors secured the match point on a net finish from Haas, who along with Wanner let out a roar of excitement as their families and teammates applauded from the bleachers.

The 6-4, 7-5 victory clinched the state berth for the seniors, who will be Rochelle’s first state qualifiers in doubles since Charlie Duval and Brandon Jones in 2013.

“We knew we were just as good as our opponents,” Haas said. “We played against them earlier in the season and I thought we played better today than we did the first time. We seem to play our best from behind and it’s been a strength of ours. We’re both looking forward to representing Rochelle and it’s an experience that I’m definitely going to soak in for as long as I can.”

Wanner and Haas were two of the six varsity players representing Rochelle in the sectional tournament. Seniors John Green and Nolan Fonfara faced Alleman’s Chase Baird and Lincoln Dorsey in the second round of the doubles bracket, taking four games in a 2-6, 2-6 loss. Juniors Parker Lenkaitis and Jimmy Chavez took the court in singles, with Chavez falling 3-6, 3-6 against Sycamore’s Regan Ni and Lenkaitis losing 4-6, 1-6 against Burlington Central’s Lucas Lemon.

Wanner and Haas ultimately earned fourth-place medals in the doubles bracket, falling 4-6, 0-6 against Geneseo’s Connor Nelson and Samuel Robinson in the semifinal round before conceding a 2-6, 6-7(2) loss to Alleman’s Baird and Dorsey in the third-place match. Rochelle finished sixth out of 10 schools with six points in the sectional tournament.