Boys Tennis: Niles North’s Bacalla beefs up his game
Niles North's Dave Bacalla hits a forehand volley in his IHSA Boys Tennis 4th round match against Sam Bloom of Hinsdale Central on Friday, May 25, 2012 in Arlington Heights. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 11:56AM
Niles North junior Dave Bacalla may have scored the same number of team points at last weekend’s IHSA state meet as he did in two previous appearances.
Yet, Bacalla’s third trip to the showpiece event, held May 24 through Saturday throughout the northwest suburbs, was clearly step forward for Bacalla, whose game has progressed from a physical and mental standpoint.
“The last two years, I won my first two and then lost. So, this was pretty good. I obviously got deeper into the tournament and got through the first day with three wins,” Bacalla said. “Then, to get the opportunity to play the second-best player in the state (Hinsdale Central senior Sam Bloom), that was a lot of fun and a real good match.”
Bloom, the tournament’s No. 2 seed from the eventual state-champion Red Devils, ended up defeating Bacalla 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in Friday’s epic fourth-round match.
The three-hour match clearly took a toll on both players. Bloom went on to lose the quarterfinal in two sets to Stevenson’s Jeremy Bush, while Bacalla also fell in his next time out, losing for the second straight week to New Trier senior Rob Jacobson, this time 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.
“I lost to Rob at the sectional this year, and again at state,” Bacalla said. “I came out pretty strong in the match, but couldn’t find the energy. I guess I just ran out of gas after that battle versus Bloom.”
For Bacalla, the Bloom match was a bit of a reminder of the past, since he had played Bloom’s older brother Augie at the state tournament two years ago. However, the performance also showed how Bacalla’s game has advanced.
The player clearly is bigger, stronger and his game more powerful than in the past. The way Bacalla thinks through the game also appears to have changed.
After getting a feel for Bloom in the first set, Bacalla made the necessary adjustments in the second, breaking the Hinsdale Central player at 3-3 and going on to even up the match.
“I had to adjust as we played,” Bacalla said. “(Bloom) is a really aggressive baseliner, with a really big forehand. He’s solid in everything and makes you play, doesn’t give you much to play off the serve. I knew I was going to have to beat him, because he was not going to be beating himself.”
“In the second set, I adjusted my game. I had been making too many errors. I decided to cut down on the errors by not giving him as much (not playing for winners). It worked for me, and I kept that throughout the match.”
Though Bloom ultimately prevailed in a tight third set, Bacalla said the tournament had been a good one.
“It was a learning experience,” he said. “Playing with that caliber of player, you get to learn from that, learn what works. Sticking with those high-caliber players on those important points, those pressure points, is the key to winning matches. It was a good test for me to play against that kind of player.”
Bacalla opened state play with straight-forward victories over Fenwick’s Brian Hickey (6-2, 6-1) and Centralia’s Jon Urshan (6-1, 6-1). Things got trickier against St. Charles East’s Jasper Koenen, as Bacalla dropped the second set but ultimately prevailed 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
Bacalla again will hit the club circuit this summer, and said he’s hoping to play some International Tennis Federations Futures competitions, which will give him a chance to face older players.
Colleges have started to recruit Bacalla, and coaches from Valparaiso intended to watch him play at state.
Next season, Bacalla said he will be looking to complete his high school career in style.
“That (year is) going to be huge, and hopefully I can finish in the top four (at state). That’s a big goal,” he said.