The Belleville West Maroons first title at the Belleville East Tennis Invitational since ‘11 wasn’t one where they dominated the competition and had several individual champions.
But it was impressive, nonetheless.
Sam Calhoun won the No. 5 singles flight and combined with Austin Quandt to take a doubles title as the Maroons swept to an eight-point win at the 16-team event on Saturday at Belleville East High School.
One of three Maroons squads to reach the finals, Calhoun and Quandt took the No. 3 doubles championship, defeating Ethan Pickard and Cameron Cagas of Belleville East 6-3, 6-0 in the final. The Maroons also got second place efforts in doubles from Drew Boyles and Derek Henke (No.1 flight) and Nick Harry and Ian Birger (No.2 flight) to take a five point (23-18) lead over Peoria Richwoods heading into the singles competition.
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When four Maroons won their semifinals in singles, West had the team title all but wrapped up.
“This was truly a team effort. Every single player on our team contributed,’’ Maroons coach Andy Brunner said. “We really stressed to our players to focus on the early rounds and get deep into the tournament, and that's exactly what they did at every spot.’’
“We always set our expectations pretty high. This group of upperclassmen have always played hard, but now they are starting to figure out how to win.’’
Calhoun steps up
West, which won three straight East Invitational titles from 2009-11 and also won in 2004 and 2005, was led by Calhoun who defeated Quincy Dollison of O’Fallon 6-0, 7-6 in the No. 5 singles flight.
Calhoun, a senior and one of several Maroons who went through a couple of tough seasons before excelling this season, said the team was due for a big win.
"It's a big win for our team. West tennis was due for a signature win. It's really a confidence booster for our team and will help us in the second half of the season.’’ Calhoun said. “Austin [Quandt] and I played with a high energy level. We used that to our advantage. We started off hot and put the pressure on our opponents, and that allowed us success.”
Calhoun improved to 8-1 in singles and is now 15-5 with Quandt in doubles
Maroons carry momentum on to singles
In addition to the title won by Calhoun in singles, West also got second place efforts from Nick Harry (No. 3 singles), Derek Henke (No. 4 singles) and Jack Langen (No. 6) singles. Brunner said that his team has really progressed over the last year do to hard work and desire.
“It's always fun to win, but when you're coaching players like the ones we have, who are hard-working, talented, and receptive to coaching, it is really rewarding,’’ Brunner said. “This has been a fun year so far, but we still have some tough matches and tournaments to go. We want to keep focused so we can have success in our tough conference, sectional, and state tournaments.’’
O’Fallon junior shines
While Belleville West established itself as one of the top teams in southern Illinois, O’Fallon junior Dominic Macaluso is clearly one of the state’s elite individuals. Macaluso defeated Alex Lescoulie of Carbondale 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 to win the No. 1 singles flight.
West finished with 61 points, followed by Carbondale with 53. Peoria Richwoods (49), O’Fallon (42) and Belleville East (39) rounded out the top five teams.