The Edwardsville Tigers enter the start of the IHSA boys state tennis tournament on Thursday in the Chicago suburbs primed for a possible run at a top 10 finish.
Led by junior Brandon Harris, the Tigers have three of their four entries seeded in the top 32 and are coming off a superb regular season and sectional.
So what is the goal for Edwardsville this weekend? It's simple.
"We're not about saying we want to finish in the top 5 or the top 10 teams. All that does is set you up for failure,'' coach Dave Lipe said. "Our goal -- and it has been from the first day of practice in February until now -- is to focus on each game, each match and to play to the best of your ability.
"If you work hard and you do those things, the results will usually take care of themselves.''
The Southwestern Conference champion Tigers, along with Belleville East and O'Fallon, are the only local teams who will have four entries in the double-elimination state finals. Matches are held throughout the suburbs during the next three days with state title matches in both singles and doubles set for Saturday afternoon at (Arlington Heights) Hersey High School.
Harris, the Southwestern Conference and Alton Sectional champion, is the lone local player who earned a Nos. 9-16 seed in singles.
The Tigers' Jack Desse and Logan Ware earned a Nos. 9-16 seed in doubles and were one of four metro-east doubles combinations to be awarded seeds by the IHSA seeding committee Tuesday.
Earning seeds in the Nos. 17-32 group were East seniors Adam Youck and Lucas Birk, the combination of Cole Henke and Adam Seppi of Belleville West and seniors Jared Zurliene and Jake Gingerich of Edwardsville.
Singles player Zach Bryant rounds out Edwardsville's state tournament lineup.
Lipe, although happy with the seeds, downplayed their importance.
"Is it better to be seeded than not be seeded? Yes. But I've seen the No. 1 ranked player in the state come out and lose in the first round before,'' Lipe said. "The key is to execute and stay sharp on the court at all times.
"The best or most talented players don't win all the time. If you are playing well and get on a roll, anything can happen.''
East will be led by Youck and Birk, who defeated Henke and Seppi 6-2, 6-2 to win the doubles title at the Belleville West Sectional.
East also advanced Chase Stumne and Jacob Hamilton in doubles and Aaron Skaer and Zach Fields in singles.
Skaer lost to Josh Lightner of Mascoutah 6-2, 7-5 in the singles final, while Fields beat Joey Bartholemew of Althoff in the third-place match.
Bartholemew also advanced to state.
"I was so proud of Zach Fields,'' East coach Dan Skaer said. "He has lost a lot of close matches this year, but when he needed to come up with a big win, he did in the quarterfinals at sectional.
"Aaron (Skaer) I thought played well, but lost to a very good player in Josh (Lightner) and I thought our doubles teams both played well. The goal is to go up, win some matches and hopefully be playing late Friday afternoon.''
Waterloo's Damon Lange and Clayton Bourgeois were the other doubles team to advance out of the West Sectional.
The O'Fallon Panthers, winners of the Centralia Sectional, will be led by sectional doubles champions Tyler Rutz and Neal Shekar. the doubles team of Nick Mullen and Nikhil Shekar also advanced, as did their singles players JD White and Mehal Amin.
Evan Duft will represent Highland.
Gibault junior Michael Lesko won the singles title at the Carbondale Sectional to advance to the state finals for the second straight season, while Mississippi Valley Conference champion Triad advanced singles players Dylan Faulkenberg and Jake Bennett.