BELLEVILLE — After a somewhat slow start, the Belleville West Maroons showed considerable improvement during the second half of the 2012 tennis season.
In 2013, veteran coach Andy Brunner is looking for even more improvement and maybe a top-three finish in the highly-competitive Southwestern Conference.
"I think the first half of last year, the guys were just getting their feet wet. They were learning what it takes to be successful in Southwestern Conference tennis," Brunner said. "I thought we improved as the season went on and during the second half of the year, we were a pretty good tennis team. The guys made a push when we placed fourth at the conference meet and were second at the sectional."
Led by the top doubles duo of Adam Seppi and Cole Henke, the Maroons should be much improved when they open the season on March 29-30 at the Edwardsville Invitational.
Until that time, Brunner and assistant coach Jenny Mennerick are trying to keep the Maroons fresh.
"We'll mix things up. We'll have challenge matches for a couple of days then well do different drills for a couple of days," Brunner said. "It's a long preseason and I'm sure the guy will be hungry for actual matches when the time comes. Hitting balls and practicing gets old after a while. What really gets old is practicing in 25-mph winds in 30-degree weather. That gets old real fast."
The Maroons return their top six singles players from a year ago.
Cole Henke, Cole Lewis and Adam Seppi are the top three singles players and should match up well with any top three entries in the SWC.
Gifted all-around athlete Nick Singsank returns to his spot as the Maroons No. 4 player while Nick Vokes and Hank Weck round out the Maroons starters in singles.
Sophomore Jeff Kleinaitis and freshman Ian Burger are also in the hunt for a starting spot in singles. Lucas Weilbacher will also see playing time in either singles or doubles.
State qualifiers in doubles a year ago, Seppi and Henke should be among the top combinations in Southern Illinois this year.
Brunner said the competition is open for the other two doubles spots in the lineup.
"These are good kids who come out here and work hard everyday,'' Brunner said. "The Southwestern Conference, in my opinion is the toughest conference south of Chicago. We're just out here competing to the best of our ability. I think we'll have a good year."
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2626 or firstname.lastname@example.org