The Alton Redbirds, Civic Memorial Eagles and the Marquette Catholic Explorers may have already thrown the graduation caps in the air, but the boys’ tennis season isn’t quite finished yet.
Alton advanced four players, all seniors, to Chicagoland this weekend. It’s Kain Henson, Jackson Scheiter, Carl Stradal and Drew Hays all battling in doubles action.
The Civic Memorial Eagles have senior Brett Norvell, while the Marquette Explorers’ junior Nick Berkenbile is taking the journey solo into singles competition. First-round state matches began Thursday. Play continues Friday and the competition concludes Saturday. Tournament central is at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.
“We had our graduation over a week ago,” Norvell said. “I’ll happily stick around high school for a little while longer to play tennis at state. I’m glad I made it, especially being my senior year.”
Lettering since he was a freshman and making it to state for the third year in a row, Henson isn’t ready to put the Redbirds uniform away either.
“Getting my first career win against Edwardsville in sectional semifinals will help me pick up momentum,” Henson said. “I’ve been fortunate to letter in tennis all four years and being able to repeat a trip to state in three back-to-back years. I hope I can get there and do my part and make it an experience to remember.”
The Edwardsville Tigers owned the singles matchups, taking home the bragging rights with a first- and second-place finish at sectionals. The Redbirds grabbed a piece of the pie in the doubles pairings. Alton had second and third-place finishes in sectional finals.
“I’m ecstatic for our four players to get to finish their careers at state,” Alton coach Jesse Macias said. This is Macias’ final season as AHS head coach. He announced he was retiring from coaching to spend time with his family at the beginning of the season. “Carl, Jackson, and Kain have been to state three times, so it will be fun to see what they can do as seniors. They are really looking forward to one more shot.”
Macias added, “It’s also exciting for Drew. It will be his first state tournament, but he and Carl are really starting to click and I think both of our doubles teams can do well. It’s my last state tournament too — looking forward to finishing my coaching career with these four seniors.”
As for the Explorers, Berkenbile may feel like a small fish in a big pond as the only Marquette representative, but that didn’t seem to faze him during sectional action. Berkenbile played No. 1 singles for the Explorers during the entire season.
The Edwardsville Tigers won the team sectional championship title on the Redbirds’ turf, but it wasn’t done without an intense battle. It marked the 15th consecutive sectional title for the talented Tigers.
“Congratulations to Edwardsville,” Macias said. “Coach Dave Lipe has a great program and they continue to win year in and year out. They had a lot of new varsity players this year, so to win sectional is impressive.”
Edwardsville is looking to build on its eighth-place finish at state as a team from a year ago. Alton watched as now-graduated Allan Bower posted a 3-2 record in singles a year ago to pace the Redbirds. He was the lone AHS netter to win at state in 2014.
Marquette and CM weren’t represented at state last season.
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