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Carl Stradal was a state qualifier last season.
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The Redbirds celebrate the Peoria Richwoods tournament title earlier this year.
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Allan Bower hits a backhand.
GODFREY – It’s turning into something of a championship season for the Alton High boys tennis team.
The Redbirds won the prestigious Peoria Richwoods Green and White Tournament in April and followed that victory by claiming the title in the AHS Doubles Invitational. They were 8-4 in dual meets at one point and eager to play in the Chicagoland Pitchford Invitational May 2-3.
“The Pitchford Invite is nicknamed the mini-state tournament because it showcases the top 32 programs in the state,” Alton coach Jesse Macias said. State powers such as 2013 state champion Hinsdale Central, New Trier, Deerfield, Oak Park-River Forest and other top teams are participating in it.
“It’s literally the best of the best and we can’t wait to play in it,” Macias said.
The Redbirds were 2-1 in the rugged Southwestern Conference, with their only loss coming at hands of Edwardsville, sixth in last year’s IHSA finals. Alton has placed third in the SWC the past four years and the Redbirds have qualified players for the state finals the past 17 seasons.
“We are having a very good season and the two tournament wins were a lot of fun,” Macias said. “Our players work hard year round and I love it when they get the chance to compete against other good programs.”
The doubles teams of Jackson Scheiter and Carl Stradal, Allan Bower and Christian Freeman, plus Adam Ruckman and Kain Henson, scored wins in the AHS Doubles Invite and ignited the Redbirds’ victory.
Bower, a senior captain, serves as the team leader, Macias said. The four-year letter winner is closing on 100 career wins.
“Allan has been our No. 1 player the past two years,” Macias said. “The wins he has been able to get us at No. 1 singles are remarkable. Every match, he is playing a state qualifier, sectional champion or someone who has placed at a state tournament.”
Two-time all-SWC performer Carl Stradal adds to the Birds’ luster. The junior was a state qualifier last season.
“Allan was our team MVP last year, but Carl has been a steady presence at No. 2 singles,” Macias said. “I wish those two appreciated more how lucky they are to have each other, being able to hit together and push each other daily. They have different styles of game, but at the end of the day both have been dominant for us.”
Stradal teams up with Jackson Scheiter to make up the No. 1 doubles team. Scheiter is a state qualifier, advancing with Kain Henson a year ago to make it to IHSA finals as sophomores.
“Those two (Henson and Scheiter) were mostly doubles players as freshmen, but the amount of wins they have brought to the team in singles is phenomenal,” Macias said. “They are a lot like the other players on our team — they just know how to win.”
Seniors Adam Ruckman and Christian Freeman play Nos. 4-5 singles, respectively, for the Redbirds and are integral parts of the team, Macias said.
“Adam and Christian have both lettered since their sophomore year,” the coach added. “Neither one had played much tennis until high school. But they have really devoted a lot of time in the summer to their game and it shows.”
Other team contributors are seniors Max Sutton, Alex Raymond, Jeff Northway, Jordann Salvador, Gaven Earle and Jared Boren.
Macias said, “Those guys don’t get a lot of attention because conference is only top six. But you need eight, 10 or more for a tournament and those guys just show up and do whatever the team needs. They push our top guys in practice and get big points in the tournaments. We would not be winning without them.”
The coach said another factor in the Redbirds’ successful composition is that many of the players compete in other sports.
Bower is a three-sport athlete and a member of the Redbird golf, hockey and tennis teams. Another three-sport performer for the Redbirds is Henson, who competes in soccer and hockey, as well as tennis.
Besides being all conference and a state qualifier in tennis, Stradal is an all-conference soccer player. Freeman is a member of the soccer team as well, and Scheiter is one of the top cross country runners at AHS.
The Redbirds also do well academically and have won five straight IHSA Team Academic Awards for having a high varsity GPA, Macias said.
“Obviously, they do a lot of things well,” he noted. “For these guys to take the challenge multiple times and do well, it’s really impressive. It’s a privilege to coach guys like that.”