With top singles player Drew Boyles battling an illness, Belleville West tennis coach Andy Brunner was forced to juggle his lineup around on Monday prior to the Maroons match with Althoff.
But with the Maroons first city title since 2011 on the line, Brunner and the Maroons made all the right moves.
Nick Harry easily disposed of Althoff’s Devin Piper 6-1, 6-2 in the No. 2 singles match and four other Maroons combined to lose only one game in eight sets and Belleville West went on to clinch the city championship with a 7-2 win.
Rebuilding under first-year coach and former West great Brian Zaron, Althoff won the No. 1 singles match when Donovan McKnight overcame Ian Burger 6-4, 6-0. But the Maroons had just too much firepower for the over-matched Crusaders on this night.
“With Drew (Boyles) being out, we bumped everyone up in the singles lineup, pitting Ian Burger against Donovan McKnight at the No. 1 spot. Our singles really came through, winning five out of the six matches,” Brunner said. “Claiming the city championship was one of the goals at the beginning of the season and so to be able to get it done, feels good.”
In addition to Harry’s win in the No. 2 singles match, the Maroons also received victories from Derek Henke, Sam Calhoun, Jack Langen and Austin Quandt.
The match of the night was at No. 1 doubles where Quandt and Calhoun, moving up a spot, to play Piper and McKnight and upset the Crusaders’ highly touted pair 6-1, 3-6, 10-6 in a classic 90-minute marathon that will be remembered for a long time in local tennis circles.
West also got a win at No. 2 doubles where Easton Jaromin and Carter Tastad defeated Jimmy Monken and Stephen Waltrip 4-6, 6-2, 10-4. Althoff won the No. 3 doubles match when David Osthoff and Paul Fries defeated Andrew McCoullough and Dylan Firestone 0-6, 6-2, 10-8.
We take a lot of pride in our doubles, and, this year, especially, we feel we have three top level doubles teams,” Brunner said. “Sam and Austin have had a lot of success at No. 3 doubles this season by winning two tournaments. With this win, they proved that they are capable of competing and winning at the No. 1 spot as well.”
Coach versus pupil
The Althoff-West match also matched Brunner and Zaron, who along with doubles partner Nick Birger are among the top tandems in metro-east tennis history. The duo were three time all-state selections from 2003 through 2007 and placed second in the state tournament in the 2006-07 season.
“Brian is a great person and a great tennis mind. It brought a smile to my face when he made the pre-match announcements and introductions; partially because it seemed a bit surreal having introduced him as a player so many times, and partially because I was happy and proud for him. I’m glad his still involved in the sport. He’s giving back and sharing his tennis expertise,” Brunner said. “Brian has always been a free spirit and a fun guy. But he also had that competitive switch he could turn on that made him one of the best players in the state.
“It’s enjoyable to be able to joke around with him and talk tennis and life on more of a colleague’s level.”