EDWARDSVILLE — The Edwardsville Open is always a success and this year was no different.
The first in a series of summer tennis tournaments at the EHS Tennis Center on the campus of Edwardsville High School, the Edwardsville Open has plenty of luster due to a wild card berth into the Edwardsville Futures being on the line.
The field includes a hodgepodge of collegiate talent, local talent and various regional and national talent.
“There are some really great players here and some really fun tennis,” tournament director Dave Lipe said. “I love seeing the good players, but I think I like seeing the families out here. I think the family environment out here is really cool.
“I also like that we have consolation, it gives players a chance to play a lot of tennis. People don't just play a match, lose and then they're done and there's a lot on the line with the wild card tournament and the cash.”
The winner of the singles division this year, earning the wild card draw into the futures, was Carson Haskins. The junior-to-be at Parkway South High in Missouri, won a state title as a sophomore, posting a 25-0 record. He's the youngest player to win the wild card out of the Edwardsville Open. It marks the first time a Division I player hadn't won it and only the second time a University of Illinois netter wasn't in the finals since it became the wild card qualifier for the futures.
Haskins defeated Illinois State senior-to-be Dylan Steffans, a Rockwood Summit grad, 6-4, 6-1 in the men's open singles championship match.
“This is amazing and I think I'm actually going to play in the Futures Tournament,” said Haskins, who will make his professional tournament debut at the Edwardsville Futures. “It's going to be really fun and a good experience for me. This was really good practice and it helps me build as a tennis player. I can learn a lot from all these matches I've played.”
Haskins is a five-star college recruit and No. 10 on the current tennisrecruiting.net top 100 list for the Class of 2018. Lipe was excited to see a player the level of Haskins competing at EHS. He enjoys the chance to support local talented players.
“We get behind our good players,” Lipe said. “You can go back to Jimmy Connors and Trey Waltke, and good players that have come through recently like Blake Strode and people are excited for Carson Haskins' potential. I'm really happy that Dylan Steffans also earned a wild card. You've got two great players out here playing third place and a lot of great players playing in the consolation, but Carson is a great player. He's the youngest player to win the Open singles title here and he will most likely be the youngest player in that professional draw on July 25. We hope a lot of people from St. Louis come over to watch this kid play a professional tennis match. Don't be surprised if Carson Haskins has success in this futures tournament.”
Steffens teamed with Michael Peters to win the men's doubles open division, earning a wild card into the doubles portion of the Edwardsville Futuers. The duo defeated the No. 1 seed of Asher Hirsch and Kristopher Ortega, 6-4, 7-5.
Peters plays at Harvard University, while Hirsch is a U of I player and Ortega is an incoming freshman for the Fighting Illini.
Haskins earned the title in mixed doubles on Sunday also. He paired up with recent EHS grad and SIUE recruit Callaghan Adams. They bested the brother sister duo of Jack Desse and Grace Desse 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in the title tilt.
Jack and Grace marked a series of several family connections entered into the tournament. Jack is a former Tiger who played at SIUE this past season in the program's final season for men's tennis, while Grace going to be a junior in the girls' program.
Sister connection Morgan and Annie McGinnis were playing in their first competitive tournament as a doubles tandem. They played in the women's doubles bracket. Morgan is a soon-to-be senior at Quincy University, while Annie is going to be a sophomore for the Tigers.
“This was the first time we've been at the appropriate age, she just finished her freshman year of high school and I'm in college, so we're both at the ability level where we can carry each other on the court,” Morgan said. “It was different. I played with Anna Morrissey (Marquette Catholic) for three years of my collegiate career and (Annie) has her own doubles partner, but it was fun.”
Annie said, “It was a lot different than I expected it to be actually. I think we worked well together on the court.”
Morgan quipped, “We don't always work together as well in the household.”
Another former Edwardsville player enjoyed success on the court over the weekend. Chris Cottone won the men's 3.5 singles title and the men's 3.5 doubles crown with teammate Logan Kuhns.
Cottone lives in Columbia, Mo. now, but began his career with the Tigers, graduating back in 2000. Cottone won 63 matches for EHS and was a 2000 sectional champion with Dave Lipe's brother Daniel. Lipe and Cottone went 4-2 at state in '00 as a team.
Cottone, 34, admitted he has fond memories of his time in Edwardsville.
“It's a lot of fun to come home, it's a great event,” he said. “Dave always puts on a great tournament and a lot of wonderful people come to play. There are a lot of old friends and family here. It's a great time. I'm definitely feeling old though. I'm feeling this one, that's more tennis than I've probably played in about 10 years.”
Being able to play in front of family may be the biggest draw for Cottone.
“My grandmother used to play with me and she's here today. She just recently turned 92,” he said. “It was fun to play in front of her and give my all before I faint here. A win here means a lot. In either case it's a lot of fun.”
Ilona Cowulich and Jennifer Melichar, both of Swansea, won the women's open doubles and McKendree women's tennis coach Raquel Allen of Edwardsville won the women's open singles.
Lipe was glad to see another successful Edwardsville Open and like always, gave credit to the sponsors for making it possible.
“We couldn't do this without USTA help and we couldn't do it without our sponsors,” Lipe said. “There's Market Basket, Goodsports and Annie's Frozen Custard and the LaQuinta Inn in Pontoon Beach and the Hampton Inn in Glen Carbon are the two hotels that our supporting our summer local tennis tournaments this year. B.J.'s Printables also lends us a good measure of support. We couldn't do it without our sponsors.”
Next up on the summer tennis tournament series at EHS is the Tiger Classic, which runs from June 24-26.