Like a pitching ace in baseball, it’s always nice to have a top singles players in tennis. Junior Carlos Gutierrez certainly fits that description for Fenwick.

He went undefeated in conference matches and advanced to the state tournament for a second straight season in 2017. At state, Gutierrez won three matches to finish among the top 20 of 64 singles players.

The Friars’ other state qualifiers Nico Halter and Mike Prabhu graduated last year along with fellow doubles players Jeff Cappelli and Antonio Bosco.

In addition to Gutierrez, senior Marty Nield and junior Brendan Kane are key varsity players this year. Nield transitions from No. 2 singles in 2017 to doubles this spring, while Kane has shown notable improvement. Junior Phil Sandor and sophomore Pierce Butler, the top two singles players on the frosh-soph team last year, could see playing time in both singles and doubles. Seniors Liam Collins, Chris Sedlacek, Ethan Magrady, and Josh Simpson are varsity returners, while Liam Magrady, Jack Sandor, Matt Walsh and Mike Dillon are newcomers to the squad.

Fenwick went 11-8 with a 5-2 record in the Chicago Catholic League last season. The Friars placed fifth in conference, third in a Class 1A sectional and tied for 11th in the 1A state tournament.

Fenwick has beaten Providence 7-0 and De La Salle 3-2 in its two dual matches this season.

“This is a great practice team right now,” Fenwick coach Gerard Sullivan said. “They are hard-working, focused, and high-energy players who have shown improvement. We will see what kind of a competition team they are over the next few weeks. How they take the inevitable knocks and bounce back will determine where we end up. A top-10 finish in 1A state is a safe and enticing target right now for this team.”

Fenwick should be very competitive in the Chicago Catholic League. Loyola is the favorite with Alan Arocho, the top player in the CCL. St. Ignatius and De La will be in the hunt.

“Duals against St. Ignatius and Loyola will be key markers for our guys,” Sullivan said. “If we can all play close and get a few wins there, we will be fine going forward, knowing anything can happen.”

In terms of the state tournament, the Friars’ journey will begin at the Fenton Sectional.

“Our sectional tournament will be very tough in singles,” Sullivan said. “Carlos will be one of 4-5 very strong likely singles entries. He will have to play well there. In doubles, it looks a little more open, so we will have two teams rearing to break through.”