Finish is the operative word for Homewood-Flossmoor senior Brad Holt.
The Homewood resident is closing out his four-year varsity career on an upswing, once again qualifying for the state finals after falling to friendly rival Julian Childers, of Marian Catholic, in the sectional championship in three grueling sets last week.
“They’ve been in the sectional final every year, and they’ve both gone to state all four years,” Homewood-Flossmoor coach Michael Sacks said of the Holt-Childers rivalry. “It was a real battle. He almost had 'em.”
Holt has carved out an amazing 25-1 record and is seeded No. 19 and will play Stagg‘s Tim Stewart at Rolling Meadows on Thursday.
Holt put in the work in the off-season and dedicated himself to the weight room at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club.
“Right now, I’m playing really, really well,” he said. “If I can keep it up, keep up my strength, I’m not going to change anything. My stroke is real good right now. I’m going to go for it.”
Sacks saw a marked improvement in his No. 1 singles player from his junior year to this season. He said Holt finally figured out how to finish shots, finish sets and finish matches on a consistent basis.
“In the last five or six months, he’s really improved,” Sacks said.
Holt lifted weights four times a week and has continued that regimen in the tennis season. The added strength was a complement to his strong forehand and backhand.
“He doesn’t get rattled,” Sacks said. “In every match, he finds what works for him and plays to his strengths. He finds his opponents’ weakness and attacks it.”
It’s a skill he honed while playing against his two older brothers, Travis and Courtney, and his father, Kenneth, who introduced him to the game at 8 years old.
“Overall, I know I have a strong game,” he said.
A strong enough game to earn him an athletic scholarship to Western Illinois University.
Holt said his overall game is pretty solid.
“I try and keep everything balanced,” he said. “I’ve been able to hit my best shots That’s helped me finish off shots.
“My serve is a big part of my game, too.”
Sacks likes where Holt is seeded in the crowded 128-player field.
“I think he’s earned it and deserves it,” he said. “There are a lot of great players in the state, but he’s right up there with them.”
Holt has finished tied for 25th in the state the past two seasons, and he set a goal to win the title.
“I want to get at least in the top eight and make an impact,” he said. “I’m hoping to go all the way.”
Also in the state finals for H-F are doubles teams Jacob Miguest and Daryle Sullivan, who drew Naperville Centrals’s Matt Mason and Justin Gillette at Palatine, and Adam Gresbach and Jeremy Miller who will play Lisle’s Bobby Martin and Matt Rurka at Buffalo Grove.
For Marian, Childers is the No. 3 seed and gets a bye.
In doubles, Mitch Zavesky and Kyle Scheffers are at No. 17 and drew Normal University’s Dylan Koth and Chris Mecherle at Palatine, while Josh Pinkus and Liam Kroning will play Troy’s John Cowles and Dylan Faulkenberg at Buffalo Grove.