CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Marian Catholic's Mitch Zavesky has the angles pretty well figured out.
As a mathlete, the Flossmoor resident has helped Marian's mathematics team improve its overall performance during the last three years. The Spartans have gone from a team that placed sixth in regional competition in 2009 to one that finished 18th overall in the state in 2011.
As a tennis player, the record of the rangy 6-foot-2 junior speaks for itself. Last Saturday, Zavesky and freshman partner Kyle Scheffers tore through the doubles competition at the Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional, capturing the championship without dropping any sets along the way.
That title improved the pair's season record to 24-1 and helped the Spartans claim their first sectional team championship in school history. For their efforts, Zavesky and Scheffers also gained a berth in the boys state tennis tournament, which begins today at a variety of Mid-Suburban Conference schools.
Last Saturday's sectional title was the third straight for Zavesky, who has the distinction of winning each one with a different partner.
"He is a leader, on and off the court," Spartans coach Scott Bodnar said of Zavesky. "Of all the players I've coached, I'd say he is in the top 2 percent in leadership, work ethic and court savvy. He is in that category of excellence."
As a freshman, Zavesky captured a sectional title with Brandon Titlon. Last year, that success was repeated with D.J. Rogala, as the tandem managed to survive until the second day of competition in the state tournament. Thanks largely to that showing, the Spartans took 18th in the final team standings.
As Bodnar looked at his junior-laden 2011 squad, he was not immediately sure how he would line up his players behind junior Julian Childers, one of the best singles players in the state. But he knew Zavesky and Scheffers would do whatever was necessary.
"Both Mitch and Kyle are very coachable," Bodnar said. "Both will play anywhere you want them."
So Bodnar decided he wanted them to play together. Though just a freshman, Scheffers has been playing tennis since he was 3 years old, and he came to Marian with plenty of USTA experience in both singles and doubles play.
The Zavesky-Scheffers duo dropped an early season match against a team from Edwardsville, but have not lost since.
"I've been pleased with the way we play together," Zavesky said. "The key now for our success at state is confidence. We know we can compete with the best teams there are -- we just have to keep that attitude."
"We are a really good match," said Scheffers, who reached the semifinals in his age group at a USTA national tournament in his age group last year. "We both serve well, and our return of service has improved as the year has gone on. We just bring up each other's level of play."
"There absolutely are things that are similar about playing doubles and (being in) math competitions," Zavesky said. "It is problem-solving. With math classes, it's all about trying to find a way to figure it out, just like with tennis -- when something isn't working, you adjust accordingly."