Hosted annually by Oak Park and River Forest, the Rudy Witsman Invite held a decidedly Chicago Catholic League flavor at the top of the team standings.
Loyola won the championship with 42 points, followed by St. Ignatius (38) and Fenwick (34). OPRF finished fourth (26) as the highest non-CCL team, with Evanston (18), Marist (12), Brother Rice (7) and Leyden (6) competing the eight-team field.
“This is always a fantastic tournament and a great way to start the season,” OPRF coach John Morlidge said. “With Loyola, St. Ignatius, Fenwick and ourselves, it’s a good field of teams.
While both the Friars and Huskies are still tinkering with their lineups, the former is front-loaded with talent at the top two singles positions.
Sophomore Carlos Gutierrez and senior Nico Halter slot in at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions, respectively, for the Friars. Gutierrez dropped only six games in three straight sets wins. Highlighted by a 6-4, 6-3 win over St. Ignatius senior Bobby Sollberg in the final.
Halter went 2-1 at second singles to earn a runner-up showing.
“Carlos had a great finish last year by going to the second day of the state finals,” Fenwick coach Gerard Sullivan. “He’s played about 45 matches at big tournaments since last year’s state finals tournament. He’s a big, strong kid who improved the technique on his strokes.
“Nico is our No. 2 singles but plays Carlos him pretty close in practice. I have to say they are almost neck and neck. Nico is also our top doubles players.”
On Saturday, the Friars also fared well in doubles with the tandems of Mike Prabhu/Jeff Cappelli, Marty Nield/Liam Collins and Chris Sedlacek/Justin Wakely winning two of three matches as well.
Ryan Castellano and Antonio Bosco are experienced players who could also contribute this spring.
“We have competitive players on our team,” Nield said. “Carlos and Nico are really good players so it’s fun to play against them. I think we all like playing every day and making each other better.”
The Witsman Invite offered a preview of the Chicago Catholic League North. Loyola, St. Ignatius and Fenwick, along with De La Salle, should all contend for the conference championship.
“It’s a very competitive conference,” Sullivan said. “Last year, the Chicago Catholic League expanded, too, with the addition of schools like Marmion, Montini and St. Francis.
“We’ll have our hands full but that’s a good thing. We need tight matches. From a coach’s perspective, the fact that every kid on this team is willing to improve is all I need.”
Fenwick opened the season with a CCL dual match meet against Mount Carmel. The Friars cruised past the Caravan 5-0.
The Friars host De La Salle at Taylor Park in Oak Park on Wednesday, April 5. Matches start at 4 p.m.