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Marquette Catholic's Laura Moore prepares to hit a backhand return in No. 2 singles action on Saturday in the River Bend Tournament at Gordon Moore Park.
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Mary Alice Gowin of Civic Memorial whacks a return in No. 2 doubles play of the River Bend Tournament at Alton High School on Saturday.
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Alton's Shannon Willis hits a return during No. 2 singles action at Gordon Moore Park Saturday in the River Bend Tournament.
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Annie Tassinari of Marquette hits a shot at AHS on Saturday in No. 2 doubles action of the River Bend Tourney.
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Allison Hoefert of the Explorers smacks a shot on Saturday in the River Bend Tourney at AHS in No. 2 doubles play.
ALTON — It came down to the wire, but in the end the Marquette Catholic Explorer girls' tennis team edged out the Alton Redbirds for the River Bend Tournament title on Saturday.
Marquette nabbed titles at Nos., 2, 3 and 4 in singles and at No. 3 doubles to beat the crosstown rival Redbirds, compiling 45 points to AHS' 43. Alton's Janelle Wilson was the lone champion for the Birds, winning the No. 1 singles crown.
The rest of the field rounded out with: Triad (39), Highland (33), Collinsville (31), Jersey (30), Civic Memorial (19) and Granite City (19). Matches were played at Alton High, Rock Spring Park and at the Simpson Tennis Complex inside Gordon Moore Park.
The tourney win avenged a team loss for the Explorers on Tuesday at AHS, losing the city championship 5-4 to the Redbirds. That was Alton's first dual win over Marquette since 2007.
“The girls weren't necessarily in great spirits after losing to Alton (on Tuesday),” Explorers' head coach Jim Claywell said. “I think they realize that we just didn't play well enough to win that match, but clearly we can play better than we did. With a few more matches (at River Bend Tournament) we were able to play to our ability and that did make a difference.”
For Alton head coach Robert Logan it was disappointing to not pull it out against the Explorers, but he wasn't disappointed in the overall performance of his Redbirds.
“We came up a little bit short, but this is the best finish we've had since 2007, the same year we beat Marquette,” Logan said. “We came up a little short in some of those championship matches, but all in all it was a great day. We had all four singles girls make the championships and Janelle ended up winning. Then No. 3 doubles, those two girls, Sami Clayton and Karen Rodriguez, that was their first varsity match and they got second place so I'm very happy with them.
“It stings a little bit we didn't get first place (as a team), but I'm very happy overall though.”
Wilson rolled through unscathed in No. 1 singles for the Redbirds, never dropping a set. After defeating Collinsville and Jersey 6-0, 6-0, Wilson bested Marquette's Shelby Jones 6-0, 6-0 in the finals to pick up her first tourney title with Alton.
Jones beat Triad 6-0, 6-0 and Highland 6-2, 6-0 to reach the finals.
“It feels good to win for my school,” Wilson, a senior transfer from Marquette who sat out her junior season due to transfer rules, said. “It's my first (tournament) one for Alton.”
The rest of the singles bracket went the way of the Explorers.
Marquette's Laura Moore got the title at No. 2 singles, besting Alton's Shannon Willis in the title tilt 6-2, 6-2. Moore reached the finals with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Collinsville and 6-1, 6-1 triumph vs. Highland. Willis made it via a 6-2, 6-0 win over Granite City and a 5-7, 6-1, 10-3 win over Triad.
It was gratifying for Moore, who lost to Willis 6-4, 3-6, 10-5 in Tuesday's dual.
“It feels pretty good,” Moore said. “I did it for the team and I did it for myself and I did it for my coach. My long shots, my lobs and my short balls were working. On Tuesday I hit a lot of balls out on unforced errors, but today I hit them all in.”
Elena Gable won at No. 3 singles for Marquette. Gable beat Highland 6-0, 6-0 and Jersey 6-3, 6-0 to set up a finale vs. Alton's Abby Fischer, winning 6-2, 6-1. Fischer reached the finals with victories over Collinsville 6-0, 6-1 and Triad 6-0, 6-0.
In No. 4 singles Adri Ventimiglia of the Explorers grabbed the championship with a 7-6, 6-2 win over Mary McDaniel of the Redbirds. Ventimiglia beat Collinsville 6-2, 6-3 and Highland 6-0, 6-1 to reach the finals. McDaniel won 6-1, 6-1 over Civic Memorial's Abby Lewis and over Triad 6-4, 7-6 before the loss to Ventimiglia.
In doubles Triad won at No 1, while Highland earned the crown at No. 2, setting up another Alton/Marquette showdown at No. 3, which proved to be the difference in deciding the tournament championship.
The duo of Maddie Joehl and Allison Peuterbaugh pulled out the win for the Explorers over Clayton and Rodriquez of AHS, 6-2, 6-0. Joehl and Peuterbaugh beat Triad 6-0, 6-2 and Collinsville 6-2, 6-0 to reach the title match.
Clayton and Rodriquez topped Jersey 4-6, 6-2, 12-10 and Granite City 6-4, 6-3 to earn their title shot.
“Our third doubles was really our JV because we had to go 10 players deep and they played so well,” Claywell said. “Really, neither of those girls have a whole lot of tournament or match experience, so for them to do what they did in that spot, they really stepped up.
“I'll also make a special account for (Moore) and (Ventimiglia) who beat the girls from Alton they lost to previously. Those were really the difference makers.”
CM head coach Ty Laux likes the River Bend Tournament because it is somewhat a sectional preview with tennis remaining a one-class system in Illinois.
The Eagles best finish on Saturday came at No. 1 singles where the tandem of Kara Weslowski and Mallory Rawlings were fourth, losing to Jersey 6-4, 6-3 in the third-place match.
“You see a lot of good players from around the area and it gives your girls a lot of experience for the postseason,” Laux said. “Once you get into the postseason it's win or go home and that's kind of how this is. Mallory Rawlings and Kara Weslowski will go doubles in the sectional and that's the way we put them in here today and it gives them a good opportunity to play against some good competition and see where they're at and see what we need to work on the rest of the year.”
Logan agreed that the River Bend Tourney is a kind of precursor to the sectional with the field there, minus sectional powerhouse Edwardsville.
“It's kind of a mini-sectional and a lot of the teams put their top players in doubles and get a head's up to where they might be seeded for the sectional at the end of October,” Logan said. “It's a great way halfway through the season to see where everybody is standing and seeing where everybody might be putting their girls at singles or doubles for the sectional.”
Follow Bill Roseberry on twitter @broseberry51.