The Edwardsville Tiger boys’ tennis program enjoyed another season of immense success in 2016.
The Tigers posted a 21-5 dual record, won their 16th straight sectional championship, at least a share of their 16th consecutive Southwestern Conference crown and won the team title at the Naperville Invitational. On top of that, they finished eighth in the state tournament, their fourth top 10 finish in the last five years.
Individually EHS saw freshman Zach Trimpe and sophomore Alex Gray reach the state semifinals in doubles, winning five championship bracket matches at state. They ultimately finished fourth, matching Justin Leskera and Cameron Randall’s state run in 2012. They two doubles duos own the best state finishes in program history.
All the success has longtime Edwardsville head coach Dave Lipe ecstatic over the ‘16 season.
“It was a great season and we had the tangible success, the external success of the winning and that was nice, but it paled to the extrinsic success which we reached through a very positive team experience,” Lipe said. “The boys got along well together, got along well with coaches. They really enjoyed the experience. Whatever place you get in the conference, when the kids play well, kids improve, kids had fun, then that’s the best kind of success. The winning is nice and it’s probably easier to get along and be happy when you’re winning, too.”
Trimpe and Gray also reached the highly touted individual feat of each winning 50-plus matches in ‘16. Both won 51, sitting tied for sixth on the all-time list. Michael Chamberlain Jr. is at the top of the list with 57 wins in 2007.
Their youth is an added bonus to the success.
“Everybody’s talking about how good they are, but how young they are and that’s a good thing, too,” Lipe said. “That’s obviously a positive and these boys are all about the future and they’re already working hard. I’ve already seen them out working on their game even though the season just ended.”
And it can’t be overlooked that the rest of the state lineup for the Tigers all posted at least one win this season in Chicagoland. Junior Erik Weiler went 3-2 and senior Luke Motley went 1-2 in singles, while senior Carson Ware and freshman Seth Lipe went 2-2 in doubles at state.
So how does the Edwardsville tennis program continue its annual dominance? The answer is simple: Lipe set the building blocks long ago when he took over the program in 1994.
“I think creating the summer programs and the offseason training program was a huge thing,” Lipe said. “Improving the schedule was a dramatic thing. We also host three summer tournaments and a professional tournament. Starting those three tournaments was key. Starting events for our own team in our own season was huge. We host some very, very important events and I think surrounding myself with good families and good coaches, those are things that are very important.
“Working together in a large team, I was probably pretty lucky with some of the kids that decided to play tennis and stuck with it.”
Lipe might be the lead guy and face of the program, but he understands the importance of a strong supporting cast. He’s done a good job of implementing a brilliant coaching staff, which has gone a long way in developing the program.
“We’ve had a lot of all world assistant coaches,” Lipe said. “Bob Meyers, Paul Stuart and Todd Minichiello have all won the assistant coach of the year awards, so we’ve had some great assistant coaches and that’s only naming three. There’s Stephanie Lee, Jamaal Heavens right now, Phil Trapani, on and on and on, we’ve had a really amazing staff. I think those have been really instrumental things.”
And all those things have helped to create interest and numbers in the program. Without the players, there would be no success.
“You have to have the right kids and kids that buy in,” Lipe said. “You have to have kids who are talented, smart and willing to work and we’ve been extremely fortunate with having a number of those kids. That’s the work that their parents do; I didn’t do that. Maybe I created the program and those things attracted those types of kids and I guess you could argue that. That was my role, starting the camps, programs and tournaments and aggressively going out and getting great staffers. Those have been important things.”
Building from the ground up and forming a solid foundation is the formula for success in any organization. The Edwardsville Tiger tennis program has definitely done that and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
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