EDWARDSVILLE — Before the start of the 15th annual Edwardsville Tigers Tennis Invitational on Friday, not many of the 32 teams entered knew much about the (Louisville, Ky.) St. Xavier High School Tigers.
But Edwardsville coach Dave Lipe and the Tigers did.
"This is the third year we've played them. The first time was two years ago when we played them and New Trier at the Northshore Racquet Club in Chicago on the same day because I like a soft schedule," Lipe said, laughing. "I was like you guys. I didn't know much and they're like, 'You've never heard about us. We've won 21 state titles in Kentucky.'
"They aren't one of the best programs in Kentucky. They are the best program in the state of Kentucky."
And on a chilly, windy Saturday afternoon at the Edwardsville High School Tennis Complex, the Tigers didn't have the best team in the tournament. They had the two best teams as the St. Xavier Green Team and the St. Xavier Gold Team tied for the title after both finished play with perfect 5-0 records.
Host Edwardsville, which handed the Tigers four of its five individual match losses during the two-day tournament, placed third while Morton placed fourth.
St. Xavier coach Kerry Lancaster simply said he did not play matches to divide his team for the event. He just picked them.
"If I would have played my No 1 and No. 2 players, it may have ended up in a fight. They are that competitive. And I need them to play doubles next week," Lancaster said. "I know coach Lipe was worried about the competition because he knows we have a pretty deep program and was worried that we wouldn't want to come back.
"But we had a blast. We had a great stay. The weather was better yesterday (Friday) then today but he (Lipe) has a great facility here and they run a first-class tournament."
Edwardsville played well, losing both matches 3-2 against the Tigers.
In a narrow loss to the St. Xavier Gold Team in the semifinals, the Tigers got wins from the doubles combinations of Jack Desse and Logan Ware and Zach Bryant and Andrew Serfas.
The same combinations also won against the St. Xavier Green Team.
"This was a very stressful day because both matches against Edwardsville went down to the last match and were both very close," Lancaster said. "This was exactly what I was looking for when I signed on to come up here to play."
Lipe, although disappointed his team fell just short of beating one of the top programs in the midwest, still had plenty to be happy about with his team.
"We lost to the top team in Kentucky 3-2 twice. The only other team to win a match against them was Morton," Lipe said. "We were in the ballpark with them twice.
"I thought our kids showed a lot of toughness and a lot of heart. But I think we can also see some very specific areas that we still need to work on. Overall, I thought it was a great weekend of tennis."