BELLEVILLE — In winning the Triad Invitational Tournament on Saturday, Belleville East tennis coach Dan Skaer got a chance to use many different combinations throughout the singles and doubles lineup.
And while Skaer was pleased as East captured 17 of 20 individual matches, no one player has separated himself as the Lancers' best singles entry.
"Right now? I've got eight guys fighting it out. And I'm being totally honest when I say this but on any given day my No. 8 player can beat my No. 1. That's how much depth and how good these kids have become since last year," Skaer said. "I think that most of the time its good that we don't have a clear No. 1 player.
"We don't have a Drew Feder type who is going to win a bunch of matches at the state tournament. But I do have a group of players who have improved more in one year then I've ever had before. Kids who played tournaments and dedicated themselves to become good tennis players.''
East lost three of its top four players -- including four-year starter Ty Skaer -- to graduation. Still, the Lancers didn't miss a beat at Triad.
After disposing of Salem and Oak Park Fenwick, the Lancers bounced host Triad in the semifinals before beating Morton in the title match.
"This weekend I went with several different lineups on purpose,'' Skaer said. "I'm going experiment and I've got some ideas, but I'm not going to say for a while. Just know that whoever I put in there is a pretty good tennis player.''
East returns five of its top nine players. That group includes Lucas Birk, Aaron Skaer, Zach Fields, Adam Youck and Chase Stumne.
Just a forehand behind are Spencer Smith, Jacob Hamilton and Kobi Phillips.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a coin flip between those five guys. They are that close," Skaer said. "They'll all be playing somewhere in the lineup in singles and or doubles. But just a step behind are the next three -- Smith, Hamilton and Phillips -- who I think are going to be very good players. I'm excited about the next three years."
Nick Spitze, Kyle Combs, Joseph Jones and Jared Carrier round out the Lancers' top 12.
Though optimistic about his team's chances in 2013, Skaer knows his team will be chasing Edwardsville in the battle for the Southwestern Conference championship.
"They (Edwardsville) will be the team to beat," Skaer said. "They lost some kids but they've got a great feeder system and so coach (Dave) Lipe just kind of reloads every year. O'Fallon and Belleville West will be better, Alton lost a lot but they'll be good as well."