EDWARDSVILLE — The Edwardsville Tigers enjoyed their Sweet 16 party on Saturday.
They won 8 of 9 flights at the Southwestern Conference Tournament on Friday and Saturday, compiling 70 points to secure their 16th straight league title. EHS has won 13 outright SWC titles and shared the crown three times dating back to the 2001 season.
To put it in perspective, freshman and No. 1 singles player Zach Trimpe wasn't even a year old when the streak started.
“I was born in September 2000,” Trimpe said.
His Tiger teammate and junior Erik Weiler wasn't much older.
“I was just a few years old when the streak started,” Weiler said with a chuckle.
It's become a tradition for the Edwardsville netters, but it's not something they necessarily focus on. They focus on the task at hand, winning the match in front of them, and they know everything else will work out.
“They try not to think about the streak and how many years in a row they've won, but they all know it has been a long time since they haven't won a conference championship,” EHS JV coach Jamaal Heavens said. Heavens was handling the head coaching duties at the SWC Tournament while head coach Dave Lipe was attending the National USTA Professional Tennis Director's conference in Florida. “It's in the back of their mind, but like Lipe always preaches, just play the best you can today, so we try to get the guys to focus on their match, focus on this point and then let the rest take care of itself.”
After sweeping the doubles flights on Friday, the Tigers won five of the six singles flights. Trimpe and Alex Gray won at No. 1 doubles, Weiler and Luke Motley prevailed at No. 2 doubles and Carson Ware and Seth Lipe were winners at No. 3 doubles on Friday.
Trimpe had a barn burner against Belleville East's Max Skaer in the No. 1 singles finals. The two freshmen went three sets with Trimpe pulling out a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 victory. Trimpe believes he and Skaer are building a great rivalry that can last through their prep careers.
“I think we're going to start building a rivalry since he's Belleville East and I'm Edwardsville,” Trimpe said. “We're going to be playing a lot over the next few years and since we'll be getting better every year the matches are going to keep getting closer and closer.”
Other singles wins for EHS were: Gray at No. 2, Weiler at No. 3, Motley at No. 5 and Ware at No. 6. Seth Lipe, another freshman, finished third in the No. 4 flight.
Weiler was happy to secure the second SWC singles title of his career.
“I won at No. 6 singles my freshman year, but lost at No. 1 singles in the finals last year,” Weiler said. “Overall it was really awesome to win today. It was a really fun final, back and forth, but it was pretty good.”
Heavens was pleased with everyone's performances. It was a good precursor for the Edwardsville Sectional, which will take place at the EHS Tennis Center on May 20-21. The Tigers will also be going for their 16th straight sectional crown.
“Being able to win five out of six singles flights is pretty good,” he said. “It was eight of nine overall, so that is really excellent. The seniors (Motley and Ware) going out champions means a lot, Zach winning his first singles championship also means a lot. All these guys have worked hard over the years to get to this point where they are right now.”
The rest of the team standings rounded out with: Belleville West (56), O'Fallon (55), Belleville East (53), Alton (35), Granite City (27), Collinsville (19) and East St. Louis (9).
With little varsity experience in the lineup, AHS head coach Robert Logan was happy with the display of the Redbirds at the tourney.
“I was very proud of these boys, not only this weekend, but this entire year,” Logan said. “We basically had one kid with some varsity experience coming back for this whole year and the kids have really bought in. They hit a lot this summer, during the fall, during the winter when they could and they've really taken off this spring. I couldn't be more proud of this group.”
Silas Chapman played No. 1 singles for the Birds and was satisfied with his performance.
“I did the best I could,” Chapman said. “I gave everything in the first round, but I still lost to West, but I've improved a lot over the tournament. In the other matches I felt like I played my game well and I'm excited for the sectional. This really prepared me for it.”
The rest of the Alton singles lineup included: Jett Durr at No. 2, Walker Moan at No. 3, Adam Kane at No. 4, Sam Kane at No. 5 and Ben Simansky at No. 6. Doubles were comprised of: Durr and Adam Kane at No. 1, Chapman and Moan at No. 2 and Sam Kane and Simansky at No. 3.
In eight of nine flights the Redbirds brought home fifth-place hardware. Next up for AHS is the Edwardsville Sectional.
GCHS head coach Raffi Karibian hoped his squad could push Alton a little more, but was satisfied with the tournament performance. The Warriors were sixth in seven of nine flights, but the No. 1 doubles team of Carter Roustio and Jeremy Erickson finished fifth, topping Alton's Durr and Adam Kane 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 for their best finish.
“I thought we did OK overall,” said Karibian, who was also hired Tuesday as the new head coach for boys' basketball at Granite City. “Yesterday in doubles we upset Alton, took fifth place at No. 1, held our spot at No. 2 and unfortunately lost to Collinsville at No. 3. We were a couple points behind Alton and it would have been nice to close the gap a little bit, but we didn't do that. I saw improvement throughout the year with our team and that's all you can hope for and hopefully we have a good last week at the sectional.”
GCHS is cast in the Triad Sectional on May 20-21.
The Warrior singles lineup included: Roustio at No. 1, Erickson at No. 2, Nathan Tanthavong at No. 3, Hayden Day at No. 4, Cory Hackethal at No. 5 and Parker Spalding at No. 6. In doubles behind Roustio and Erickson were: Tanthavong and Brian Ames at No. 2 and Day and Hackethal at No. 3.