Bernhard, Vines lead Central tennis to convincing win over Centennial

May 3—CHAMPAIGN — There was no buildup to Thursday's rivalry boys' tennis match between Champaign Central and Centennial.

There was no time for it.

The Chargers played Monday and Tuesday, and the Maroons were set to play their third match in as many days.

Still, you can't escape the reality that is Central vs. Centennial.

"After years of coaching basketball, it's still special when we play Centennial," Central coach Scott Davis said. "After the match (Wednesday), we talked to the players about what (Thursday) would mean. You always hope to win, but you never know."

The feeling was mutual across the net.

"Everybody knows what it is," Centennial coach Jason Zumwalt said. "I told the guys, 'If you don't get pumped up for this, there's probably something wrong with you.' If I was a kid playing in this, I'd be jacked up and ready to go. Our guys don't need any extra motivation to play. Ever."

That intensity led to plenty of competitive sets, but the Maroons' talent at the top of their lineup and depth throughout the rest proved to be too much to handle, and they took an 8-1 win over the Chargers.

Leading Central were Ezra Bernhard at No. 1 singles, who placed fifth in the Class 1A state tournament last year, and Abel Vines at No. 2 singles. Davis admitted Vines would easily be the top player for many other programs. Bernhard bested Jason Kim 6-0, 6-1, and Vines beat Tyler Luchinski 6-2, 6-2. Those two pairs then played each other at No. 1 doubles, where the Maroons had their way again 6-0, 6-2.

"At the beginning of the week, we're thinking about Centennial. We've got to give it to them," Bernhard said. "It feels like you have something to prove. That's what's great about it, and I love it."

Bernhard and Vines sent the early message with their victories, which was especially important in a rivalry matchup. Their teammates saw them wrap up their singles matches fairly quickly, and just like that, the expectation and drive to do the same cranked up a notch.

"The kids look to those two to set the tone," Davis said. "Everybody is confident they'll perform well, and they did. When you've got them at the top setting the tone for the match, it forces you to want to join that group."

You could see the competition on the court and hear the emotion in the players' voices with every "Let's go!" and "Come on!" after each big point.

But as soon as each match concluded, the sportsmanship was just as prominent as when they'd play other opponents, maybe even higher. As Bernhard won the final point against Kim to put the Maroons' first point on the board, they shook hands at the net, shared a few laughs and walked off the court together with smiles on their faces.

"I've known Jason for four years and Tyler more than that because we used to play soccer together," Bernhard said. "They're great guys. We have a ton of respect for them, even though they go to Centennial. We still think they're great people, and we can joke around like that."

Also winning for Central in singles play were Daniel Canivez over Joaquin Leon (6-3, 6-0), Tommy Costello over Jeff Chahyadi (6-2, 6-1) and Josh Kim over Ayan Ehsan (6-4, 5-0). Charlie Wixson earned Centennial's lone team point with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Bobby Miller.

The Maroons swept the doubles matches.

Canivez and Costello beat Wixson and Bruno Jo (6-1, 6-4), and Miller and Josh Kim topped Moses Kim and Ryder Perry (6-2, 6-0).