Alton's Janelle Wilson hits a return during the SWC Tournament No. 1 singles finale Saturday at Belleville West against Edwardsville's Callaghan Adams.
Shannon Willis of the Redbirds smacks a return in No. 1 doubles action at the SWC Tournament on Saturday.
BELLEVILLE — Janelle Wilson turned in a day to remember Saturday at the Southwestern Conference Tournament at Belleville West High School.
Wilson entered as the second seed of the No. 1 singles flight and came away with SWC singles gold. The Alton senior had a couple of mammoth obstacles on her way to the title.
After winning her opening round match 6-0, 6-0, Wilson knocked off West's Kayleigh Thurwalker 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 and then defeated the No. 1 seed, EHS' Callaghan Adams, 6-3, 6-2 in the finale.
It was the second time in a week Wilson had bested Thurwalker, also beating her in a dual at AHS on Wednesday. The victory over Adams avenged a loss in the dual at Edwardsville earlier in the season.
“It was definitely a good week,” Wilson said. “It was a lot better than it has been. It's nice to beat Callaghan after I lost to her in three sets at the dual during the season.”
Wilson limited unforced errors on Saturday, which Alton head coach Robert Logan thought was key to her success.
“There wasn't a whole lot of difference (from the regular season) as far as X's and O's, she just made up her mind she was just going to have to suffer a little more out there on the legs,” Logan said. “She knew she needed to keep it in longer, maybe not go for a shot as early. She just knew if she kept it in play and kept it over to (Adams') backhand as much as she could. That was just a big key, limiting the unforced errors. It sounds silly, but it's a lot harder than it looks.”
Edwardsville head coach Dave Lipe was impressed with the poise Wilson showed after the match with Adams was over.
“Callaghan played really well today and Janelle played better,” Lipe said. “Janelle's a great player and a good competitor and just a good, hard working tennis player. We have a lot of respect for Janelle and kudos to her for how she played. She played like the champion of the Southwestern Conference, which I thought was thoroughly competitive this year with Thurwalker, Adams and Wilson. Wilson proved today she was the best player in the tournament. For her to beat Thurwalker for the second time in a week, she's a tough kid.
“I think one of the things that impressed me the most is after she beat Callaghan she didn't act like it was that big of a deal. I think she expected to win and she won, but I don't know that for sure. I'm proud of my kid, too. Callaghan did not play poorly. I thought those were some of the best points I've seen Callaghan play all year.”
As for the rest of the tournament, the Tigers ruled the roost. EHS won singles titles in flights 2-6. Edwardsville is well on its way to its sixth consecutive season with at least a share of the SWC championship. It would be their third outright.
Logan was pleased to see the performance from his squad. The Redbirds are in fifth place with 26 team points with the singles play in the books. Doubles are scheduled to be completed on Monday. The first round of doubles was squeezed in on Saturday.
“Overall I'm pretty happy,” Logan said. “We're in fifth place, which is where I thought we'd be. Our scores against some of the girls we lost to during the duals were a lot more competitive this time. It's just a bear, this conference, it's a broken record. In every sport it's just a bear and we're gaining ground slowly. We're getting better, catching up, but the top four are just very good.”
The team standings after the first day of the tourney had EHS in front with 47 points, followed by: Belleville East (37), Belleville West (36), O'Fallon (32), Alton, Collinsville (20), Granite City (12) and East St. Louis (6).
Competing in the other singles slots for the Redbirds on Saturday were: Shannon Willis at No. 2, Abby Fischer at No. 3, Mary McDaniel at No. 4, Emily Formea at No. 5 and Addie Schenk at No. 6.
After completing the doubles portion of the SWC Tournament, Alton will delve into the Edwardsville Sectional on Friday with a field filled with the Tigers, Marquette Catholic, Civic Memorial, Metro East Lutheran, Granite City, Highland, Jersey, Roxana and East Alton-Wood River.