Romulo Lobo says the strongest part of his tennis game is his forehand. Kurt Gale has developed a formidable net game.
But the most lethal arrow in the state-bound Dixon duo's quiver? Accountability.
"I had to get used to doubles," said Lobo, a Brazilian foreign-exchange student who had played singles all his life. "Dealing with the pressure ... It's not just you. It's you and your partner."
Gale won one match in singles at sectionals last year before bowing out. This season, he forged a bond with Lobo – one that led them to a bronze medal at the Moline Sectional last weekend. Those precious medals were good for a state berth and a 19-5 record to date.
"When you make a mistake in singles, you think, 'OK. It's my bad. I'll move on,'" Gale said. "In doubles, I can't let my partner down."
That said, ill communication happens. Gale recalls one point in Moline on which he sized up a smash at the net.
"I thought I'd get the net shot, but I decided it was too high," Gale said. "I pulled back my swing so I wouldn't just nick it, and Romulo thought I was gonna get it. So he wasn't ready for it to come. I didn't communicate well."
"In every game, we have those moments," Lobo said.
No apologies necessary. Just on to the next point.
"We understand each other," Lobo said.
The duo was seeded third at the sectional meet. Gale admits simply winning two matches Friday night and knowing they'd be leaving for the Chicago suburbs early Thursday morning was enough.
"In my mind, after the first day of sectionals, everything else was just extra," Gale said.
Something Lobo might not have anticipated when he came to the states was how much he would enjoy life at Dixon High School. He particularly enjoys the sports and friendships he's forged through them.
Lobo goes home June 21, and plans to take advantage of every minute he has left. Gale has one idea of how Lobo can best enjoy the remaining time.
"Grad parties," he said with a huge smile.
"I want to take my time here," Lobo said. "I have just one more month. I want to take advantage of my time and not waste it."
One of Gale's favorite memories of Lobo will be how his partner sets up his big forehand. Gale might be in the runnings for the No. 1 academic ranking in his class, but he needed a quick pop culture lesson in Dragon Ball Z.
"I've never watched it, but there's this guy who shouts this thing…" Gale said.
"Kamahameha," Lobo said, finishing Gale's thought and referring to the signature attack of the cartoon series' character Goku.
"He doesn't actually shout it out," Gale said. "He'll say to me, here comes the Kamahameha."
Then, without fail, Lobo will unleash one of his signature forehand shots.
It might seem odd to some, but you'd better believe Gale will miss it after this week's state tournament.
State meet setup
When: Day 1 – Thursday, doubles matches begin at 10 a.m.
Matchup: Gale/Lobo vs. Wesley Lo/Sid Swamy, Naperville Central
Where: Palatine High School
Did you know?
Gale and Romulo will be the first players to represent Dixon at the boys state meet since 2002, when Todd Shoemaker and Andy McCarter qualified in doubles.