Althoff tennis coach Rusty Parker will be the first to admit that wins in major invitational tournaments have been hard to come by for the Crusaders in recent years.
That is until Saturday when Althoff ended a six-year victory drought.
Utilizing a favorable draw and good depth, the Crusaders capped a memorable performance with a 7-2 win over Jefferson City (Mo.) in the title match of the Edwardsville Dual Team Tournament at the Edwardsville Tennis Complex.
"We've won the South Seven Conference Tournament title but as far as invitational tournaments, we hadn't won one since I have been coaching and this is my sixth year,'' Parker said.
"Am I surprised? Yes and no. Looking at our draw I knew we had tough matches with Quincy and Springfield (Sacred Heart Griffin) but I thought that with the format and because of our depth that we would have a shot if we played well. The credit goes to our kids. Everybody stepped up and played very well all weekend.''
The Crusaders opened up tournament play with a 5-0 win over the Edwardsville junior varsity squad.
Edwardsville's powerhouse varsity team competed in the elite Pitchford Tournament in suburban Chicago over the weekend. Another local power, Belleville East also sent its varsity to the Pitchford Tournament.
Althoff then disposed of Quincy 5-4 and then nipped Sacred Heart-Griffin 3-2 in the tournament semifinals.
"We got some big wins in the nine-match format from our players in the No. 3 and No. 4 doubles flights,'' Parker said. "I was really pleased with my No. 3 doubles team of Donovan McKnight and Austin Crook. They hadn't really played a lot of doubles together but the match against Sacred Heart came down to them and I think they won like 6-1, 6-1.''
"But my No. 1 doubles team of Joey (Bartholomew) and Brendan (Skinner) won three of four matches against some really top doubles teams and my No. 1 singles player -- Austin Mueller -- went 2-2 against just some outstanding players. Like I said, it was a tremendous effort by all the players who competed this weekend.''
The win couldn't have come at a better time for the Crusaders who will defend their conference title next week and then prepare for the IHSA Sectional in a little more than two weeks.
"I'm hoping this will carry over and give us a little momentum heading into the postseason here,'' Parker said. "It's been a good year and I know the boys would like to make it even better heading down the stretch here."
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org