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Finn Pollard scored a breakthrough victory for Evanston’s tennis team Saturday at the Niles North Sectional tournament.
Now the ETHS sophomore could face an even more daunting task than trying to beat New Trier.
Pollard, coming off a runner-up sectional tourney finish in singles, will join the doubles team of Chauncey Wadsworth and Jake Chiss at the Illinois High School Association state tournament set to begin on Thursday at several sites in the northwest suburbs.
Pollard will take a 15-10 record into his state tourney debut at Buffalo Grove High School, where he’ll meet Colton Hume of Edwardsville. But waiting for the winner of that match likely will be the No. 2 seed in the entire field, Andrew Spurck of Palatine Fremd.
Wadsworth and Chiss, meanwhile, will play Shreyas Shah and Ethan Carlson of Sandburg in the first round at Conant High School. The tournament continues on Friday and Saturday with a double-elimination format.
Pollard punched a ticket to state by scoring a rare victory in a head-to-head matchup in the sectional semifinals against New Trier’s Stan Okesson, beating the Trevian freshman 6-2, 7-6 (4). New Trier has been a state power in tennis for decades and has dominated the Wildkits in the sport to the point where it almost can’t be considered a rivalry.
But Pollard helped change that before falling to another New Trier standout, Matthew Plunkett, in the title match by a 6-3, 6-0 margin. The semifinals and finals of the two-day sectional tourney were moved indoors to the Wilmette Tennis Club on Saturday because of rain.
“That might be the first time in 50 years we’ve beaten one of their singles players,” said Evanston head coach Marcus Plonus. “When we play them in dual meets, sometimes they won’t send their best guys, so we might have beaten them there. But not in the sectional. I’ve been here since 1991, and I know it didn’t happen in the ’80s, either.
“Finn did a great job. He’s an all-around, complete player and he plays with a lot of heart. He has a deep desire to win. This win is great for his overall confidence, because he’s lost a bunch of close three-setters this year. Now he knows he can beat those guys.”
Pollard is the first ETHS singles player to advance to state since Joe Collins in 2010. He also matched Collins’ best previous sectional finish, in 2009, with a runner-up effort to Plunkett.
Wadsworth and Chiss combined for a fourth-place sectional finish. The two seniors were paired together just before the sectional tourney and are 4-4 overall entering Thursday’s match.
At the sectional, they opened with wins over Samuel More and Maxime Bonamy of Lincoln Park (6-2, 6-0) and Russell Rosa and Ariel Iram of Niles North (6-2, 7-6) before bowing to New Trier’s Will Feeley and Jack Rivkin (6-2, 6-0), and the Loyola Academy team of James Sohigian and Danny Birmingham (6-3, 6-4). The top four placers in both singles and doubles automatically advanced to state.