EDWARDSVILLE — Sectional success has become commonplace for the Edwardsville Tigers.
On Saturday the Tigers secured their 16th straight sectional crown at the Edwardsville Sectional with 27 points. The rest of the field rounded out with Jersey, Metro East Lutheran, Marquette Catholic, Alton, Civic Memorial, Roxana and East Alton-Wood River.
All four EHS entries are headed to the state tournament which begins Thursday in Chicagoland. Erik Weiler won the singles crown, while the team of Zach Trimpe/Alex Gray were the champions in doubles. Luke Motley of Edwardsville was second in singles, while Connor Ware/Seth Lipe finished third in doubles. The top four placers qualify for state.
Marquette's Jon Claywell earned third in singles to advance, while Alton's Silas Chapman finished fourth to qualify. Jersey's Alex Goldacker/Alex Roth were second in doubles, while Drake Blackwell/Trevor Davis were fourth in doubles to move on to state.
EHS head coach Dave Lipe was ecstatic to see the individual efforts and success of his players, but as for the team title, he downplayed the sectional streak.
“We don't think about it too much,” Lipe said. “Going into it we didn't think, 'Well, we've won 15 sectionals in a row so we get to start every game up 30 to love.' It doesn't work like that. Today we played great and I'm really proud of all six of our kids, the way they played and competed. Yes we've won 16 in a row and that's something to be proud of and we shouldn't take success for granted. I'm not trying to sound coy about it, but it didn't matter today that this was No. 16, all that mattered was we went out and played well and tried to improve what could be a good seed at state.”
With the individual success, the team success takes care of itself. Weiler made sure of that by winning the second sectional championship of his career. The junior netter also won as a sophomore and finished runner-up as a freshman.
“It feels awesome coming out here and all of us doing really good,” Weiler said.
Weiler defeated Claywell of the Explorers 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinals Saturday and then his EHS teammate Motley 6-2, 6-4 in the finals.
He feels his previous state experience will help him succeed at state.
“The first year and last year as well, it was really nerve-racking, but now I'm used to it,” Weiler said. “My main thing is to get through the main draw on the first day at state. If I can do that then everything else is just bonus for me.”
On the doubles front, Trimpe and Gray have less experience, but their current level of play has them percolating at the right time.
On Saturday, the duo bested a pair of Jersey teams. In the semifinals they beat Blackwell/Davis 6-0, 6-1 and then defeated Goldacker/Roth 6-0, 6-0 in the finals. The Tiger tandem only lost one game the entire weekend.
“I think we have good chemistry,” Trimpe said. “We've played a lot since we were really young, so we had chemistry coming into this season, but we've built up a lot on it.”
Gray thinks they can have success at state.
“If we play our best tennis I think the sky is the limit,” Gray said. “It's just getting there and focusing on every match and bringing our toughest game every time.”
Lipe thinks all his entries have the talent to do well at state. With the experience of playing multiple tournaments throughout the season in Chicagoland and having success, state shouldn't overwhelm the Tigers.
“I think Erik feels really good about his game right now. He was very exuberant today when he won and I thought Erik showed a lot of class this weekend,” Lipe said. “Luke Motley, two-time state qualifier on the day he graduates from high school. I thought Luke played great tennis. He and Carson Ware are two seniors and I'm very happy for both our seniors to get to qualify. Then we have two freshmen that qualified today in Zach and Seth and obviously Alex and Zach were very dominant this weekend. They only lost one game in the tournament.”
Marquette's Claywell and Alton's Chapman are both first-time state qualifiers as juniors. Claywell defeated Chapman 6-2, 6-0 in the finals. Claywell lost 6-0, 6-1 in the semis to Weiler, while Chapman fell 6-1, 6-4 to Motley in the semifinals.
“This is really exciting,” Claywell said of advancing to state. “It's nice to see a lot of hard work paying off. I'm just still in shock and excited. It fuels me, makes me turn it up a notch knowing that I'm playing for my school.”
Chapman is very happy to be moving on also. He admitted the sectional was a little overwhelming for him with the amount of fans watching and expects to have some jitters next week, but welcomes the experience he will gain.
“I'm glad I can go for my team and my teammates are proud of me,” Chapman said. “I'm looking forward to it. This was a new experience for me having a lot of people watching the match. It's a very new thing, I've never done anything like this before. I've never played in a sectional and I don't know what state will be like. I felt like this was a very different way of playing tennis. It took a lot out of me, but it was really fun. I'm looking forward (to state).”
Lipe was just happy to see the maturity of all the players and the respect they showed on and off the court at the sectional.
“We all showed a lot of respect for Zack Hunter's family and that was an important thing. The players were all very respectful of the Hunter family and the kids played well,” he said. “All that stuff is important. All that stuff matters and now we're looking forward to trying to get a little better this week and play great at state.”
The state tournament begins Thursday in Chicagoland. Tournament central is at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.