Wilmette, Sports

Ackerman and Morales are New Trier’s first doubles champs in 22 years — leading Trevians to third place

It is a rule of nature: adapt … or else.

Down a set in the state championship match, New Trier’s doubles team of Chris Ackerman and Jovan Morales embraced the concept whole heartedly.

The Trevians mixed up their return games, putting previously unbeaten Jack McLane and Mason Mazzone, of Lyons Township, on their heels the rest of the way to earn a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory on Saturday, May 25, in the IHSA boys tennis state championships at Palatine High School.

Chris Ackerman watches his serve in the state championship match Saturday, May 25, in Palatine.

Ackerman, a junior, passed the credit to New Trier’s coaches, specifically Tad Eckert, Jerry Morse-Karzen and Brent Saltzman.

“They all did such a good job giving us advice the whole tournament,” Ackerman said. “Everything we started doing differently to (break their serve) — going down the line, backing up, lobbing it — that was all them.”

The adjustments allowed Ackerman and Morales to win the first four games in the second set and five straight in the third to create separation and become the first New Trier doubles champions in more than 20 years. New Trier now boasts 13 doubles champs in its history. Mack Reynolds and Adam Rubenstein were the last to pull off the feat when they won their third straight IHSA title in 2002.

Ackerman and Morales won all six of their matches in the IHSA Class 2A tournament, scoring 14 points for New Trier. The Trevians finished with 25 points and in third place behind Hinsdale Central (36) and Hersey (28).

It is the Trevians 10th straight state trophy (top three) and 47th in program history. The Trevians finished second in 2022 and ’23. New Trier has 22 state championships, the most recent of which was earned in 2021, and 17 runnerup finishes.

New Trier coach Tad Eckert said that going into the IHSA finals he felt the Trevians had a shot at the state title, but Hinsdale Central “just ran away with it.” Red Devils’ singles player Alex Kotarski and Nathan Hernandez finished second and fourth, respectively, and one of their doubles teams — Barry Zhu and Nicholas Marringa — placed fourth.

Trevians sophomore Jovan Morales returns a serve in the title match.

“It wasn’t what we didn’t do it’s what they did,” said Eckert, who pointed out that the Trevians did go 2-0 against Central entries on the weekend. “… When we were projecting our points out, we didn’t have as high of a total as Hinsdale got. They just played outstanding in this tournament.”

Eckert said under the circumstances, which included a sprained ankle for doubles competitor Jacob Matten, a third-place finish was a “positive result” and Ackerman and Morales’ title was the “cherry on top.”

“Chris Ackerman has been the best doubles player throughout the state in my opinion,” Eckert said. “He’s just a load, a lefty … and a left with a big serve, which is doubly difficult for his opponents. And Jovan is just a really steady presence, athletic.

“I think Jovan and Chris are the most athletic team in the draw. Doubles creates randomness and when things get random, athleticism takes over.”

New Trier got five points from Daniel and Jacob Matten, both seniors, who won four matches; and three points apiece from singles players Stan Okesson, a junior, and Reed Sugarman, a freshman.

In the 2023 state tournament, Okesson teamed with Ackerman on a run to doubles runnerup, and Ackerman joined Caden Liu in 2022 for a fifth-place result.

Jovan Morales (right) and Chris Ackerman after a key point in the championship match.

With experience in tow, Ackerman said before this year’s tournament he told his partner, Morales, that it’s a tough tournament but “there is no match you can’t come back from.” Morales said he welcomed the advice and the pair put it into practice in the championship bout.

“We started with a lot of nerves,” Morales said. “This was my first state tournament. I’ve never been in this situation with so many people watching. It was just great. We embraced the moment and played our best tennis.”

Reigning doubles champs Evan Glebov and Blake Gold, of Highland Park, made their presence felt again at state.

The pair won their first three matches in straight sets before taking a three-set loss to eventual third-place finishers Amaye Shyani and Shashwat Srivatsa, of Fremd.

Glebov and Gold won two matches in the backdraw to advance to the fifth-place match, where they lost 6-3, 6-4 to Glenbrook South’s Alex Denizov and Bryce Abban.

Highland Park’s Evan Glebov volleys a shot over the net as teammate Blake Gold looks on during the state tournament.

Loyola Academy’s Danny Birmingham and Sam Cho also competed at the state finals, winning their first match before back-to-back defeats ended their weekend.

Hersey’s Mitch Sheldon was the singles state champion, beating Kotarski 6-3, 6-3 in the finale. Evanston’s Finn Pollard placed fifth.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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