For only the second time in school history the Edwardsville Tigers have a state entry through to the semifinals.
Freshman Zach Trimpe and sophomore Alex Gray continued their torrid state run on Friday, advancing to the state semifinals on Saturday. The only other time that has happened is when the EHS duo of Justin Leskera and Cameron Randall did it in 2012. Leskera and Randall ultimately finished in fourth place.
The intriguing factor is they were seniors during their state success, while the current duo of Trimpe and Gray are so young.
“They're great players and this is what they wanted,” Edwardsville head coach Dave Lipe said via telephone of Trimpe and Gray. “They wanted to play in the state tournament together. They love playing doubles together and they're having a good time. They're out there fighting for it every single point. They're very intense competitors and great kids.
“They were down 5-3 today in the third set (in quarterfinals), came back and tied it at 5-5, went down 6-5 and came back to tie it at 6-6 and push it to a tiebreaker and then won the tiebreaker. It was a thrilling match, one of the more memorable matches during my tenure as a high school coach for sure.”
That quarterfinal win came against Downers Grove South's team of Christian San Andres and Zach Wood. The final score in Trimpe and Gray's win over them was 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (2).
It marked the first time the EHS tandem had dropped a set at state. They defeated Sebastien DesRoberts and Rohan Gupta of Glenview (Glenbrook South) in the fourth round of the championship bracket earlier on Friday 6-1, 6-4.
“We talked about at some point we would be down in the tournament and that's when we were going to have to have our best poise,” Lipe said. “True to prediction we were down and they really rallied and I don't think they ever gave up or thought for a second they were going to lose. It was a match of giant momentum swings, but they battled really tough.”
Now they earn a date with the top-rated doubles duo in the state tournament in Deerfield's Chris Casati and Niko Wasilewicz. Trimpe and Gray played them during the regular season and lost, but weren't blown out. Lipe believes that experience will be an asset on Saturday.
“They're the No. 1 seed and they beat us earlier this year, but they beat us 6-4, 6-4,” Lipe said. “They beat us but it was very close and competitive, so we know about them. We know they're very skilled, we know we're going to have our hands full, but I think we're going to be inspired by the challenge.”
Edwardsville's last standing singles player, junior Erik Weiler, saw his tournament run come to an end on Friday. Weiler fell 6-3, 4-6, (10-5) to Rockford Auburn's Quinten Nevenhoven in his fourth round consolation bracket match. The three-time state qualifier was 3-2 this season at state.
“We started off with a tough match,” Lipe said. “Erik Weiler lost a third set tiebreaker and that's a tough way to lose. Congratulations to him on a terrific tournament. It's his third state tournament as a junior and playing five rounds is a lot, so I'm very happy for him.”
As for the team standings, the Tigers are perched in a tie for sixth place currently with 20 points. The highest Edwardsville has finished as a team at state is fourth in 2007.
Powerhouse Winnetka (New Trier) leads the field with 35 points.