It would be too much to ask retiring Loyola head coach Tom Fitzgerald where this season’s Catholic League championship ranks on his all-time list.
After all, he’s been with the tennis program for four decades. But Fitzgerald admitted this one is special, considering this is 40th and final season as a coach at Loyola and 43rd as a teacher at the school.
The Ramblers finished first at two positions and took third or better in the other three Friday to total 35 points for their second league title in a row. St. Ignatius (33) took second, and Fenwick finished third (30) in the 10-team field.
Not one to pat himself on the back, Fitzgerald relies on others to celebrate his successes. Tom Gordon (Class of 2008) played for Fitzgerald and serves as an assistant coach. Fitzgerald’s other assistant Elia Daoud (Class of 1998) also played for the Ramblers.
“He has no ego at all,” said Gordon, Loyola’s girls tennis head coach. “It’s all about the guys and his coaches. As someone who’s played for him and coached with him, this is really cool to see.”
Although the Ramblers were the defending conference champions, they didn’t enter this year’s tournament as the favorite after losing to St. Ignatius in a dual meet. That’s why senior and captain Ryan Reardon said it was rewarding to finish first and send Fitzgerald out with another title.
“We don’t have as strong of team as we did last year, but we are solid everywhere,” he said. “Everybody did their part and pushed hard for every point we got. We were playing for him and dedicated the win to him.”
Sophomore Michael Sullivan finished first at No. 3 singles, and the doubles team of senior Michael Reardon and sophomore Brendan Hadley won No. 2 doubles.
Seniors John Carpenter and Patrick Lawler teamed up to take second at No. 1 doubles. Reardon finished third at No. 1 singles, and junior Ethan Tong was third at No. 2 singles.
“This was a tough one to win,” Fitzgerald said. “We were the underdogs, and we played really hard to get it done. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by good kids and good coaches at Loyola.”
The Ramblers compete at the Class 2A New Trier Sectional on Friday and Saturday.