BELLEVILLE — At the end of every season, Belleville East tennis coach Dan Skaer asks his team the same question.
"I ask them if they think we can be better the following season than we were this one," Skaer said. "We've had a pretty good run here the last four or five years and we've been able to be a little better each year. Last year we finished in the top 10 at the state tournament and so doing better then that this year will be difficult. But if we continue to work hard and improve, who knows what can happen."
Led by a quartet of solid players and good depth throughout their lineup, the Lancers open the season on Saturday at the Triad Tournament with high hopes and dreams. Belleville East is the defending tournament champions.
The Lancers placed ninth in the state finals a year ago.
Senior Aaron Skaer will more than likely play the No. 1 singles spot, but he is being pushed hard by juniors Chase Stumne and Jacob Hamilton along with highly touted sophomore Kobi Phillips.
"They're all pretty close as far as skill level go and we haven't had any challenge matches yet,'' Skaer said. "Chase and Jacob are a very good doubles team so we'll probably have them at the No. 1 doubles spot for tournaments and then play Aaron and Kobi in singles.''
Skaer said he also has high hopes for seniors Spencer Smith and Nick Spitze along with juniors Joe Jones, Vinnie Gass and Matt MacAnish.
"We've been very fortunate in the past few years that we've have very good depth,'' Skaer said. "The kids who are serious about playing high level tennis at East work hard on their games by playing tournaments and taking lessons.
"That's one thing I can say about our program is that the players do what is necessary to be successful.''
Skaer said he thinks Edwardsville will once again be the team to beat in southern Illinois and the Southwestern Conference this spring.
"I don't think there is any question that Edwardsville is the team to beat. They are very strong again this year,'' Skaer said. "Do we have a chance to beat them? I know the players think they can and I'm not going to tell them otherwise.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org