BELLEVILLE -- Edwardsville’s Natalie Karibian had to win the Southwestern Conference No. 2 singles championship the hard way on Saturday at the conference tournament in Belleville.
Karibian came from behind to beat Belleville East’s Isabel Burwitz 3-6, 6-2, 18-16 in the No. 2 singles title match at Belleville West.
“It was a great match,” Edwardsville coach Dave Lipe said. “Izzy is obviously a great player. Both players had multiple match points before that final score of 18-16. It’s one of the really great high school tennis matches I’ve ever seen. It takes two great players to play a match like that.”
Karibian also helped the Tigers capture a tournament title. Edwardsville won the eight-team tournament with 71 points. Belleville East and O’Fallon finished in a tie for second with 59.
“It’s hard to win this tournament,” Lipe said. “It feels great to win this tournament. The teams in this tournament are good. East and O’Fallon were right there and they were very competitive with us.”
The No. 2 singles championship match between Karibian and Burwitz was the last one played in the conference tournament, which was played on Friday and Saturday at Belleville West, Belleville East and Southwestern Illinois College.
Lipe said he was thrilled to see Karibian come from behind to win a conference title.
“I think it makes Natalie a better player,” Lipe said. “Natalie showed a lot of grit there. She keeps coming back to win after losing in the first set.”
Also, Alton finished fifth with 36 points and Granite City placed seventh with 18.
The Tigers, Redbirds and Warriors will return to Belleville this weekend. They will be competing in the Class AA Belleville East Sectional.
All eight conference schools plus Glenwood and Springfield make up the 10-team sectional tournament. Edwardsville will look to win its 20th straight sectional title.
The Tigers won conference championships in eight of nine flights. In addition to Karibian’s win at No. 2 singles, Edwardsville got wins from Grace Desse (No. 3 singles), MacKenzie Cadigin (No. 4 singles), Maria Mezo (No. 5 singles) and Abby Cimarolli (No. 6 singles). The doubles teams of Desse/Morgan Colbert, Karibian/Cimarolli and Cadagin/Mezo also won titles.
“It’s a great weekend overall from these kids,” Lipe said. “From 1 to 6 singles and from 1 to 3 doubles, everyone turned in a really great performance. I’m really proud of all of them. Coach Cimarolli and Stewart did a great job this weekend and there were a lot of parents supporting us. These girls were very focused for Homecoming weekend to come out and grind for six hours today and six hours yesterday. So it feels great. I know these girls feel good about their weekend and they deserve to.”
The Tigers’ only loss came at No. 1 singles, when Colbert lost to Belleville East’s Chloe McIssac in the championship match at Belleville West.
“The Belleville East girl played a really great match at No. 1 singles,” Lipe said. “Chloe McIsaac is a great player and she’s a little bit too good for Morgan today and it was a very competitive match.”
In addition to its conference tournament title, Edwardsville finished 7-0 in conference dual-match play.
“It’s hard to win in this conference,” Lipe said. “All of the teams in this conference are very strong. It’s hard to win a flight, but to win eight is super hard. These girls played a lot of good tennis this weekend and I’m very happy for them with how they played.”
Alton placed fourth in No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles. Abby Fischer lost to O’Fallon’s MacKenzie Shelton in two sets in the No. 1 singles third-place match. Fischer and Hannah Macias lost to O’Fallon’s Miley Brunner and Kate Macaluso in the No. 1 doubles third-place match.
The Redbirds got fifth-place finishes from Macias (No. 2 singles), Sam Clayton (No. 3 singles), Maddie Saenz (No. 5 singles) and Mackenzie Giertz (No. 6 singles). The No. 2 doubles (Clayton and Saenz) and No. 3 doubles (Mackenzie and Cali Giertz) teams also finished fifth.
Alton senior Lucy Phillips placed seventh in No. 4 singles.
The Warriors got sixth-place finishes from Kayla Bridick (No. 4 singles) and Olivia Brinker (No. 5 singles).
Granite City got seventh-place finishes from Kourtney Singleton (No. 1 singles) and Emma Van Buskirk (No. 6 singles) and placed seventh in all three doubles flights.
Belleville West was fourth with 42 points, Collinsville finished sixth with 28 and East St. Louis was eighth with 11.