BELLEVILLE — The revolving door at the top of the Belleville East lineup continued to turn on Tuesday and Lancers sophomore Kobi Phillips may have served up his breakthrough win.
Phillips staged a late rally to clinch a 7-6, 6-4 win over Althoff senior Austin Mueller as the Lancers overcame chilly conditions and a much-improved Crusaders squad for an 8-1 win in a nonconference tennis match.
Struggling to put opponents away in his first season at the top of the lineup, Phillips trailed Mueller 4-3 in the second set. But after holding serve to tie the score at 4-all, Phillips broke the serve of Mueller to take the lead before winning the match.
"That was good to see. Kobi hit some big shots and played the big points well when he needed too in the end,'' Lancers coach Dan Skaer said. "This was a nice win because Althoff is a good team. It's the best Althoff team in many years. ''
But the Crusaders couldn't match the depth and talent of East, which placed second in the Edwardsville Tournament on Saturday and has won nine of 10 dual matches in the early going of the 2014 season.
In addition to Phillips, East also received singles victories from Aaron Skaer, Chase Stumne, Jacob Hamilton and Spencer Smith as it took an insurmountable 5-1 lead heading into the doubles competition.
Althoff senior Michael Barnes defeated the Lancers' Nick Spitze in a third set supertiebreaker (10-8) in the No. 6 singles match for the Crusaders only win.
Plagued by several weather-related cancellations in the early going in this wet spring, the dual match was the first of the season for the Crusaders.
"And we get to play Belleville East in our first match. That's pretty rough,'' Althoff coach Rusty Parker said. "I was pleased with our effort. It would be easy for someone to see the score tonight and think we got blown out. But there were several close matches and I thought that for the most part we held our own pretty well. East is just very good. They have a lot of depth."
East put the finishing touch on its win by sweeping the doubles. Hamilton and Stumne led the way with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Joey Bartholomew and Brendan Skinner in the No. 1 doubles match.
Smith and Spitze outlasted Barnes and Jeff Murphy 7-5, 7-5 in the No. 2 doubles match while Skaer and Phillips ran past Mueller and Peyton See 6-2, 6-2 in the No. 3 doubles match.
East coach Dan Skaer said he has been pleased with what he has seen from his squad in the first three weeks of the season.
"We're looking strong. The key is not getting complacent,'' Skaer said. I like our depth. We've got a very solid lineup. But we can't settle. We need to keep working because we still have areas of our games which need work."
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org