BELLEVILLE — It was 14 years ago when the Lancers Tennis Open was founded with the idea of providing a good summer tournament while helping to raise funds for the Belleville East boys and girls tennis programs.
With the start of the 2013 event two days away, Lancers boys coach and tournament director Dan Skaer said the three-day tennis marathon continues to be a successful one.
"We're still going strong,'' Skaer said. "The kids, especially from Belleville, enjoy playing in it and some of them actually plan their vacations around it. From our (Belleville East) standpoint, this is basically our biggest fundraiser for both the boys and girls programs. With the budget cuts, we use proceeds for things like travel, equipment and hotels when we travel to out of town tournaments on the weekends.''
In all, over 130 players ranging in age from 10-18 from throughout the St. Louis-area, will begin play at 8 a.m. on Friday at courts at Belleville East and O'Fallon High Schools, along with Southwestern Illinois College.
The list of top players who have competed in the event includes many of the best in the area, including former three-time all-stater Nick Birger of Bellville West, current Belleville East girls coach Ross Peters, Carli Connors and Abby Allgire, along with current high school standouts Aaron Skaer and Kayleigh Thurwalker.
At stake is a tournament title and the chance to have their names put on the champions boards, which hang on the fence around the courts at Belleville East High School.
"It's a big deal for these kids to have their names on the board," Skaer said. 'Some of them have them have it up there two and three times.''
Tournament action continues Friday and Saturday, with the finals set for Sunday morning in both singles and doubles at East.
"Another factor in what draws kids to our tournament is that it's an opportunity to play a lot of matches in a short period of time,'' Skaer said. "If player competes in singles and doubles, they could play eight or nine matches in three days. That's a lot of tennis.''