EDWARDSVILLE — The Edwardsville Tigers continued their dominance in the Southwestern Conference on Wednesday.
The Tigers dismissed the visiting O'Fallon Panthers 8-1 at the EHS Tennis Center, improving their overall record to 19-5 and moving to 5-0 in the SWC. O'Fallon slipped to 14-4 overall and 3-1 on the league slate.
“We had some really great matches today. I'm proud of how the guys competed up and down the lineup,” Edwardsville head coach Dave Lipe said. “A couple of these got close. Some kids played very well start to finish, but I think we have a lot to learn. We did some things well. Credit some of our kids for closing out matches that got very close in the second set and credit (O'Fallon) for being a good team and battling us tough.”
O'Fallon coach Erin Thoman believes the strong competition from the Tigers will help prepare her team for the upcoming postseason.
“It's very good to see before we head into postseason play,” she said. “We always know with tough teams like Edwardsville that we're going to get great matches out there and great experience and it will help us down the road.”
EHS is on the road to another SWC title. The Tigers have won the title outright or shared it for 15 straight seasons. The SWC Tournament is scheduled for May 13-14 at a site to be determined.
“You can't be sure about anything, you have to go out there and win every match and you can't take for granted any opponent, but I'd say if we keep playing strong there's a chance (at a SWC title),” Edwardsville's Alex Gray said.
Freshman Zach Trimpe added about beating O'Fallon, “I think it was a really good win. Dominic Macaluso is a very good player and I've played him many times before and I think we have a good rivalry right now. I just played well and I think that's why I got the win.”
Trimpe picked up a 6-4, 7-5 win over Macaluso at No. 1 singles Wednesday. He also teamed with Gray to top Riley Muren and Shree Patel of the Panthers at No. 1 doubles, 6-0, 6-1.
Gray said he and Trimpe have meshed well this season and he thinks the Tiger rookie has taken to varsity tennis without much of a learning curve.
“He's grown and stepped out as a player,” Gray said of Trimpe. “He's more confident and it helps all of us play better. He's been strong the whole year for us.”
Trimpe added, “I've played on big stages before, so I don't feel that pressured right now. I feel like my team has really helped me get into a good groove and I feel like I'm much more positive now.”
Trimpe said he and Gray have forged a strong bond in doubles, one that will likely carry them into the Edwardsville Sectional together on May 20-21 and hopefully a berth at the state tournament.
“We kind of build off of each other,” Trimpe said. “When I'm down he brings me up and when he's down I bring him up and I think it's just a good friendship and a good doubles team.”
Other singles winners for Edwardsville on Wednesday were: Gray at No. 2 singles over Muren , 6-2, 6-1, Erik Weiler at No. 3 vs. Shree Patel, 6-1, 6-1, Seth Lipe at No. 4 against Niko Papachrisanthon, 6-2, 6-4 and Carson Ware at No. 6 over Quincy Dollison, 6-1, 6-3.
In doubles, EHS received other wins from: Weiler and Luke Motley at No. 2 vs. Macaluso and Papachrisanthon, 6-4, 6-4 and Lipe and Ware at No. 3 against Prem Patel and Dollison, 6-0, 7-6.
The Tigers are young, only playing two seniors on Wednesday in Motley and Ware. Coach Lipe believes that means there are growing pains, but he feels his squad is definitely trending in the right direction.
“There are some things our younger kids are learning and there is stuff that our older kids are learning, too,” Lipe said. “The older kids are definitely more mature than the younger kids in most cases. There are some growing pains. We've got three or four kids out here on a regular basis that weren't out here on a regular basis last year. It's a new lineup with the exception of Alex and Erik. Luke and Carson played some last year and both were state qualifiers actually.
“It was a good match for us tonight. O'Fallon's a very good team and we feel fortunate to have won and we look forward to going to Chicago this weekend.”
EHS is at the Napervalley Invite at Naperville High on Friday and Saturday. The Tigers wrap up dual play at 4 p.m. Tuesday with Belleville West at home.