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Boys Tennis: De La Salle’s Steven Hill brings tenacity to court

Steven Hill  De LSalle. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

Steven Hill, of De La Salle. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Boys Tennis 2014

TOP TEAMS

1. Lincoln-Way East: Singles player Tom Emola and strong doubles teams will make East tough to beat this season.

2. Sandburg: Sophomore Jonluke Passett has huge potential after qualifying for state last year. State doubles qualifiers Jimmy Gradowski and Trent Sichelski are back.

3. Lemont: Junior Nick Urban should help Lemont pile up points in the state tournament. A breakout season may be ahead for junior Nathaniel Burner.

4. Andrew: Coach Mike Maratea already has a bona fide area power with the doubles team of Austin Wabi and Alan Wang. Maratea is eager to see how heralded freshman Nick Karczynski will fare.

5. Oak Forest: The Bengals made big strides in 2013, going 17-4 in duals and sending the doubles team of Tom Dagenais and Matt Nadeau to state.

TOP INDIVIDUALS
(in alphabetical order)

Rami Ariabe, Oak Lawn, senior; Ryan Champlin, Lincoln-Way Central, senior; Tom Emola, Lincoln-Way East, senior; Jack Geissler, Joliet Catholic, sophomore; Steven Hill, De La Salle, senior; Sam Knuth, Lincoln-Way North, junior; Jeremy Miller, Homewood-Flossmoor, senior; Kyle Scheffers, Marian Catholic senior; Nick Urban, Lemont, junior; Brendan Wolan, Stagg, junior.

Updated: May 1, 2014 7:26AM



De La Salle has been blessed by having two of the best tennis players in school history in the same graduating class.

In the fall, senior Khalia Powell finished in the ninth- to 12-place slot in the girls tennis finals despite being unseeded. Her’s was the highest finish in school history.

Now, Steven Hill will take aim at school history on the boys side. Jason Buegel finished sixth in 2000 to set the school mark.

Hill will have to put together a monster run in the state tourney for that to happen. He’s played 14 downstate matches in a high school career that started at Lincoln-Way North for two years and has ended up at the Chicago school after he’s moved from Frankfort to the Morgan Park/Beverly area.

Hill isn’t making any predictions on where he’ll finish, but said he would be “going in with the tenacious mind-set that I usually have.’’

Hill said his “swiftness around the court” is a strength of his game. He wants to improve on his backhand and to keep his emotions in check.

“I get real stirred up,” he said. “When that happens, it gets a little hectic up top. I’ve never been thrown out of a match, but I’ve gotten a good amount of warnings. I usually get the message and try to tone it down.”

Veteran De La Salle coach Steve Hopkins hopes for a big finale to Hill’s prep career.

“I find Steve to be a very hard working and focused young man who wants to do well in both the classroom and on the tennis court,” Hopkins said. “I’ve enjoyed coaching Steve and look forward to him having a very successful year, though he does have his work cut out for him having to play against some top-notch competition this season in the Catholic League.”

Hill grew up in Chicago and developed a love for tennis that started with a Clissold Elementary School after-school program called Love to Serve. A few years later, he loved everything about the game and chose to pursue it over basketball.

“I started out as a basketball player and I was pretty good,” he said. “I wasn’t bad on the court but when I was on the bench, my attention went everywhere. I was cool when I was in the game. But when it was time to sit down, my thoughts were everywhere. In tennis, you are always in the game. I needed a sport like that.”

Hill said he’s getting a lot of Division III looks and a few nibbles from Division I schools including Howard. Hill said he would wait until after the season to see where his future school will be.

It’s no surprise that two of the better players in De La Salle history know each other well. Hill said he respects Powell but never has lost a match to her.

“I grew up playing tennis with her; I’ve known her for a long time,” Hill said. “She doesn’t beat me. I don’t want to lose to a girl, but if she ever did beat me, I might start cheating.”



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