BELLEVILLE -- Belleville has been very good to the Edwardsville Tigers girls’ tennis team this year.
A week ago, the Tigers won a Southwestern Conference tournament title at Belleville West. On Saturday, Edwardsville celebrated a sectional crown at Belleville East.
The Tigers won the Class 2A Belleville East Sectional with 33 points, making it the 20th year in a row Edwardsville captured a sectional championship.
Now, Edwardsville is looking for success in suburban Chicago, where it will compete at the Class 2A state tournament, which starts on Thursday. The Tigers qualified two singles players and two doubles teams to state.
“I expect us to play a little bit better this weekend than we played today,” Edwardsville coach Dave Lipe said. “If we do that, I’ll be very pleased. If we go out and compete and do everything a little bit better this weekend than we did this weekend, that will feel really good because this weekend was our best tennis of the year.”
Edwardsville won sectional titles in both singles and doubles flights. Sophomore Natalie Karibian won a singles sectional title by beating O’Fallon’s Mackenzie Shelton 6-1, 6-1 in the championship match. Senior Morgan Colbert and Grace Desse won the doubles title after beating Isabel Burwitz and Chloe McIssac of Belleville East 6-1, 6-0 in the championship match.
Seniors Mackenzie Cadagin and Maria Mezo qualified for state in doubles after finishing third. Sophomore Abby Cimarolli also advanced to state after a fourth-place finish in singles.
The Tigers lost just three matches in sectionals.
“Our girls put in a very dominant display this weekend,” Lipe said. “They played focused and they were ready. They were into it from start to finish and they were tested for sure. We played great opponents.”
Also, Alton finished in a tie for sixth with Belleville West with four points and Granite City was eighth with two.
Abby Fischer and Hannah Macias scored the Redbirds’ only points with a 6-0, 6-0 second-round victory over Collinsville’s Amy Burgess and Kyla Harris. They came up a victory short of a state berth after falling to O’Fallon’s Miley Brunner and Kate Macaluso 6-0, 7-6 (7-2) in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“They both had a lot of responsibilities this year and I thought they really represented our program well,” Alton interim coach Jesse Macias said. “They played hard in every match, they gave us chances to win and they had a chance to go to state. All you can ask is they work hard and do their best and they did. It’s tough, but they played well.”
Sisters Mackenzie and Cali Giertz were eliminated in the first round in doubles, Sami Clayton was eliminated in the first round in singles and Maddie Saenz was knocked out in second-round singles.
Macias already has high hopes of his team for 2017.
“We have a young team,” Macias said. “If those girls do a lot of hitting this offseason and play some tournaments this summer, I think we’ll be good next year. I think the girls know that we have a chance to be good because we’re young.”
Granite City scored its only points on a first-round victory from freshman Emma Van Buskirk. She defeated Clayton 6-2, 6-3.
Kayla Bridick and Maya Ware were eliminated in first-round doubles, Ashley Peck and Kourtney Singleton were eliminated in second-round doubles and Olivia Brinker lost in the second round in singles.
Out of the six Granite City players who participated in sectionals, only Peck is graduating.
“I’m excited about next year because I feel like I’m building the program and not losing too much this year, so that helps build for next year,” Granite City coach Linda Ames said. “But I’ve got to get some younger kids out to help. I wish people would send their girls and boys out to play tennis because it’s the best sport they haven’t played.”
The IHSA girls’ tennis postseason tournament is in its first year of the two-class system. Edwardsville won the last 19 sectional titles under the one-class format.
“It certainly made our sectional more difficult,” Lipe said. “It made our sectional probably four times as hard. I think it makes our players ultimately better players to have to compete in that level. I hope this weekend will help us next weekend. I think that the two-class system showcased the strength of our conference. I think it made our sectional more exciting.”
Colbert will be competing at state for the fourth time. She competed in doubles in her freshman and junior seasons and in singles in her sophomore year
“It’s always great playing with Morgan,” Desse said. “We have this chemistry that we have on the court. We always know where we’re going to be all of the time. It’s kind of weird, but it works out really well for us.”
Karibian, Desse, Cadagin and Mezo will play at state for the second straight year in a row and Cimarolli will be making her first state tournament appearance.
Karibian lost a total of just four games en route to her first sectional title. A year ago, she lost to teammate Callaghan Adams in the singles championship match at the Alton Sectional. championship match
Karibian said she’s thrilled to go back to state this year.
“It’s a big deal because last year, I don’t think I did as well as I could have,” the Edwardsville sophomore said. “This year, I hope to come back and play a lot better than I did last year.”
Colbert and Desse won a sectional title for the second year in a row. The doubles team lost just four games in the Belleville East Sectional.
Cadagin and Mezo will be competing at state in doubles for the second straight year. They beat Brunner and Macaluso 6-2, 6-1 in the third-place match.
On Friday, Cadagin and Mezo beat O’Fallon juniors Mady Schreiber and Abbey Byrnside 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in the second round, then defeated Glenwood’s Anna Lytchakov and Haneen Said to clinch a state berth.
Cimarolli lost to O’Fallon’s Katie Halwachs 6-4, 6-4 in the third-place match. Cimarolli clinched a state berth by beating Collinsville’s Jennaka Cain 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals on Friday.
O'Fallon finished second with 23 points, Belleville East was third with 18, Glenwood placed fourth with 12 and Collinsville was fifth with 6.