Heading into the start of the girls state tennis tournament, Edwardsville coach David Lipe isn't asking much of his team.
Just a little bit.
"I just want the girls to play a little better than they have all year," Lipe said. "If all four of our entries do that, then we've got a chance to have a good tournament. I think we're ready."
Ready or not, Edwardsville will lead a group of metro-east players into battle beginning Thursday, when play begins at sites throughout the Chicago suburbs.,
Three rounds of competition are scheduled in both singles and doubles Thursday. Play continues Friday and Saturday, with the singles and doubles championship set for Saturday afternoon.
The Southwestern Conference champion Tigers have three of their four entries seeded in the top 32. Juniors Megan LaRose and Mallory Abert lead the way and are seeded in the Nos. 5-through-8 group in doubles.
Freshman Morgan Colbert and junior Maddie Lombardi of Edwardsville are one of three local combinations seeded in the Nos. 17-through-32 group. Sectional champions Rebecca McIsaac and Savannah Martin of Belleville East and sectional runners-up Gabi Papachrisanthou and Blair Hollenbeck of Belleville West are also seeded within Nos. 17-through-32.
Southwestern Conference singles champion Kayleigh Thurwalker of Belleville West is the highest seeded local individual. Owner of a 29-2 record, Thurwalker earned a Nos. 9-through-16 seed, while Edwardsville sophomore Callaghan Adams is seeded in the Nos. 17-through-32 group.
Lipe, who serves on the IHSA seeding committee, said getting players from Southern Illinois seeded is sometimes difficult, when dealing with players from the talent-rich Chicago area.
"I have the records and the players accomplishments for the season with me when I go in and I just try to do the best I can for our local players," Lipe said. "We (Edwardsvile) have good entries, but I honestly want all of our players from the area to go up and compete well."
The top hopes from Belleville are the seeded entries. Now a three-time state qualifier, Thurwalker may be ready to take her place among the state's elite.
Unbeaten against players from Illinois this season, the Maroons junior is at the top of her game and, along with the doubles team of Hollenbeck and Papachrisanthou, seems poised for possible top 16 finish.
"Kayleigh has been outstanding all season and I'm hoping she'll continue to play well at state this weekend. She's already beaten some very good players from the Chicago area," Maroons coach Jenny Mennerick said. "Blair and Gabi are also capable of winning a few rounds. We just hope to play well."
One of the state's top teams for the last two years, Savannah Martin and Rebecca McIsaac of Belleville East are perhaps one of the more dangerous combinations in the 64-entry bracket.
Both pure power players, McIsaac and Martin should be able to compete with any team in the state if they're at the top of their games.
"That's what we're hoping for," Lancers coach Ross Peters said before the sectional tournament. "A team gets on a roll and plays well for a two days, anything can happen. If Rebecca and Savannah are on their games, they'll be tough to beat."
Other local players to watch this weekend include singles players Alexis McCarthy of Triad, Tori Linsday of O'Fallon and Kaylie Comley of Belleville West.
Among the other doubles teams competing are Olivia Scaturro and Maddie Swiecicki of Collinsville and Emma Melichar and Madelyn Skinner of Althoff.