Palos Hills, IL-(ENEWSPF)- When Prairie State tennis coach Patrick Reichard took a look at his team prior to the 2014 season, he knew his squad would be strong and one definitely capable of repeating as NJCAA Region IV champions.
Turns out he was right.
Thanks in part to a 16-point output, the Pioneers narrowly edged Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference foe Moraine Valley by a two-point margin Saturday, claiming their second consecutive Region IV crown.
With the win, Reichard’s squad is now the first ever PSC athletic program to claim consecutive region championships. They are also the first program to win two region titles in PSC history.
“Going into the season, I thought we were one of the top teams in the region, but at the end of the season, three of our top players suffered bad injuries in a match against Vincennes University,” Reichard said. “So, going into the regional tournament, I really didn’t have a lot of confidence. We lost a match against College of DuPage, and Moraine Valley seemed to get better as the season went on.”
The Pioneers picked up a pair of region champions in singles play as sophomore Kodie Hayes (Homewood-Flossmoor H.S.) earned the title at fifth singles while fellow sophomore Jeremy Horvath (Crete-Monee H.S.) won at No. 6 singles.
The majority of Reichard’s charges were both battered and beaten by the conclusion of the three-day tournament. The fifth-year head coach was proud of his players’ efforts.
“During the tournament, two of our top players (freshman Junior Gomez and freshman Lotfi El Jai) began cramping really bad and fell down on the court,” Reichard said. “Luckily, the trainer was able to work on both players. The crowd was skeptical about the injuries, but I knew Junior and Lotfi were really in bad shape.
“Fortunately, they battled through the pain, and together, they won this tournament for the team by knocking off Moraine Valley on its own court.”
With Saturday’s team triumph, both Hayes and Horvath became the first PSC student-athletes to be a part of two region-championship teams.
“Jeremy Horvath has been the heart and soul of this team for two years,” Reichard said. “He’ll be one to watch at nationals.”
The Pioneers will now move onto the NJCAA National Tournament in Plano, Texas (May 11-16).
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. --- Snow flurries and temperatures below 40 degrees don’t typically make for ideal tennis conditions.
When faced with these exact issues Tuesday afternoon, the Prairie State College men’s tennis team was completely unfazed. After all, the Pioneers had a championship to lock down.
Following an 8-1 triumph over Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference counterpart Waubonsee, PSC completed an undefeated run through the league schedule, thus securing its second consecutive Skyway crown.
Head Coach Patrick Reichard’s team is now the first Prairie State athletic program to claim back-to-back conference titles.
Reichards’ squad also joins Prairie State’s women’s basketball team as the only other PSC program with multiple Skyway championships.
Tuesday’s championship-clincher marks the sixth in the history of PSC athletics. All of Prairie State’s conference championships have come since 2010.
“We accomplished our first big goal of the season today by winning a conference championship,” Reichard said. “We’ve been practicing for a full year to get to this point. In that time, we’ve had a lot of struggles: we’ve lost a few players, battled slumps and injuries, and disagreed on what we’ve needed to work on. But our win against Waubonsee really showed me how far we’ve come. I could tell because we really played like a team as everyone was cheering for everyone else. That’s what made us conference champions today.”
The Pioneers ran the table on the doubles side, claiming all three matches as the top tandem of sophomore Kodie Hayes (Homewood-Flossmoor H.S.) and freshman Srdja Nikolic (Mihailo Petrovic H.S., Serbia) won their match 6-0, 6-2.
Freshman Junior Gomez (T.F. South H.S.) and freshman Justin Horvath (Crete-Monee H.S.) fought hard to seal up a triumph at second doubles, while sophomore Jeremy Horvath (Crete-Monee H.S.) and freshman Osiris Carroll (Madison H.S., Ga.) also won at No. 3.
For Justin Horvath, who filled in Tuesday for injured freshman Lotfi El Jai (El Hassania H.S, Morocco) the win at second doubles marked his first of the year in a non-exhibition match.
Nikolic and Carroll also claimed their respective singles matches at No. 1 and No.2 as well.
Gomez, Hayes and Jeremy Horvath also locked up victories at fourth, fifth and sixth singles.
For Jeremy Horvath, his 7-6, 6-0 win pushed his season mark to 8-1. The 6-foot, 136-pound Horvath currently owns an outstanding career record of 21-1 and is undefeated against both NJCAA Region IV and Skyway Conference opponents in his two seasons with the Pioneers.
Jeremy Horvath, Gomez, El Jai and Hayes all made the All-Skyway squad.
The Pioneers will now take on DuPage Thursday in Glen Ellyn as they begin to tuneup for the NJCAA Region IV Tournament, April 24-26.