Boys’ tennis looks to improve skills with young team


Quinn Toomey

Diving for a hit, freshman Ilan Shelest reaches out to get the ball over the net. The Titans lost 4 – 3 to the Giants.

Liz Clary and Abby Mckew

the youngest it has been in years, with five returning sophomores and three freshmen, says Head Coach Larry Faulkner. Despite having a young team, they see a promising season in their future.

“Varsity is normally dominated by upperclassmen, but this [team] is dominated by underclassmen,” Faulkner said. “But, the vibe is still about working and getting it done in practice.”

Seniors Michael Bukhalo and Tommy Frankiewicz, the team captains, agree that it is exciting having so many underclassmen. They explain that it shows a great future for the program as the current underclassmen will become great role models.

“[The program will] get several [role] models that have had that experience when they’re seniors to continue the program and then they’re all really good,” Bukhalo said. “During meets and tournaments, you can count on them; [and] even though they’re pretty young, it’s just nice to have talented kids.”

Faulkner’s goal for this season is to improve every player’s skills and to help the team become better players all around, Faulkner says.

“The goal is always to make yourself a better player,” Faulkner said. “It isn’t really as much about winning and losing. Obviously, you want to win, but that’s why you make yourself a better player, so you can [win].”

Both Bukhalo and Frankiewicz have worked hard on team bonding since the beginning of this season. According to Bukhalo, the team wants to improve on their chemistry, as they struggled to bond last season.

“[The goal is] to create, in the doubles teams, better dynamics between some of the players because last year that was a little bit of a problem,” Bukhalo said.

Frankiewicz’s goals for his final season of tennis, as he will not go on to play in college, are to be there for his team throughout the entirety of the season and enjoy it as much as possible.

“I want to support my team throughout the season and have fun with my last year playing tennis,” Frankiewicz said.

The season starts in early February every year, and, due to the harsh Chicago weather, the team does a lot of indoor preseason conditioning. Bukhalo says that the preseason training is very intense and tiring.

“[The] coaches are pretty intense,” Bukhalo said. “We practice every day after school Monday through Friday and then Saturdays.”

Brendan Tanaka is one of the three freshmen on the boys’ varsity tennis team. He explains that being on the GBS tennis team has impacted his life and that he is excited to play for the rest of the season.

“It has made me into a new person being on this team not just making new friends, but going out there, giving it my all and being confident,” Tanaka said. “I think that that’s what makes me really happy about being on this team – doing the best I can.”

The energy before the matches can be very stressful, which is why Frankiewicz loves playing doubles so much. He says that he can become very competitive during meets and gets down on himself easily, but with a partner at his side, he is able to have more fun.

“Playing doubles with a friend [helps] so much, like if I get too competitive I start getting down on myself,” Frankiewicz said. “If I’m playing with a partner that I enjoy playing with, doubles can be more fun.”

However, Bukhalo says that the thought of messing up the match for your partner can be even more stressful. Bukhalo likes not having to rely on a teammate and knowing that his mistakes will only affect him.

“[My favorite part is] probably the individuality because I make my own decisions,” Bukhalo said. “I deal with all the consequences of the decisions I make.”

After the wins at their first match against Rolling Meadows and Conant over spring break, the team is expecting good things to come during the rest of this season and can’t wait to see how the young team continues to grow over their high school careers.

“We have had a lot of success in our program over the years,” Faulkner said. “Mostly, it’s working with the players and seeing them grow and mature over the years. That’s fun and rewarding.”

The next match is on April 23 against the Maine South Hawks.