Tennis: Libertyville’s VanDixhorn showing plenty of promise and commitment
Libertyville freshman Ben VanDixhorn serves one up during singles action at Vernon Hills last week. | Joe Cyganowski ~ For Sun Times Media
Updated: June 11, 2012 1:30AM
All that was left for the lefty was tennis.
Libertyville High School freshman Ben VanDixhorn chose to stop playing organized basketball last year.
The year before that, he dropped baseball.
“I decided not to play football anymore the year before that,” recalled VanDixhorn between singles matches at Saturday’s Liberty Bell Invite at Glenbrook North.
He’s a one-sport guy now and he couldn’t be happier.
“I like tennis a lot because it’s an individual sport, but at the same time you’re still a part of a team,” said the Wildcats’ No. 1 singles player.
VanDixhorn’s efforts in singles helped Libertyville score six points and tie Vernon Hills for seventh place on Saturday. The invite was hosted by LHS and also held at Glenbrook South. South’s Titans, behind singles champ Konrad Zieba, captured the team championship with 13 points – one point shy of a perfect total.
The 5-foot-9 VanDixhorn routed Warren’s Wes Stoller 6-1, 6-0 in the first round Saturday morning before bowing 6-0, 6-1 to Zieba. VanDixhorn relies on a heavy topspin forehand to move his opponents around, and he isn’t afraid to venture toward the net after striking a short or mid-court shot.
But Zieba had too much game for VanDixhorn in the second round.
“He hit a bigger ball, a really heavy ball,” said VanDixhorn. “He stepped into his shots and overpowered me. Plus he moved around the court better than I did.”
VanDixhorn regrouped and won in straight sets in his first match in the back draw. He ended up in sixth place after a taut 2-6, 6-3 (11-9 super tiebreaker) loss to Rockford Guilford’s Matt Papke.
VanDixhorn’s overall singles record stood at 3-3 after Saturday’s invite.
“Ben has played a ton of tennis since giving up all those other sports,” said Wildcats coach Dan Kiernan. “I like the way he competes, and he handles himself well during the big points in matches. He’s got a good all-court game.”
Libertyville’s Jack Springgate and Eric Klein excelled on doubles courts Saturday, netting runner-up honors to Glenbrook South’s Michael Sellitto/Michael Levitas. The Wildcats’ top tandem advanced to the final with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Glenbrook North’s Bill Angel/Adam Spector in a semifinal.
Springgate and Klein had never played together before Kiernan paired them in preseason practices last month.
“In our practice matches we lit it up,” recalled Springgate.
Juniors Adam Grabowski and Adam Daluga also played doubles Saturday and edged a Warren pair 1-6, 6-4 (10-8) in their first consolation-round match. Logan Reiff, another LHS junior, played a match in the main draw and a match in the back draw before withdrawing with a back injury.
“It’s a nice group with a lot of good athletes,” Kiernan said of his 2012 varsity. “They show up, don’t complain. Everybody is working hard. We’re excited.”
Recaps: Libertyville won its first two duals of ’12, edging Vernon Hills 4-3 on April 3 and routing Lakes 7-0 the next day. Reiff (No. 2 singles), Springgate/Klein (No. 1 doubles), Daluga/Grabowski (No. 2 doubles) and Alex Winters/Duncan Millar (No. 4 doubles) won vs. VH. LHS victors against Lakes were VanDixhorn (No. 1 singles), Reiff (No. 2 singles), Nishad Phadke (No. 3 singles), Springgate/Klein (No. 1 doubles), Grabowski/Daluga (No. 2 doubles), Winters/Millar (No. 3 doubles) and Nick Vittore/John Mattioli (No. 4 doubles).
On the schedule: Libertyville (2-0) competes at Saturday’s Knights/Huskies Invite at Prospect and Hersey, beginning at 8:30 a.m.