The Belleville West Maroons used a 1-2 finish in doubles a year ago to stun Belleville East and win the Belleville East sectional tennis tournament. Repeating that accomplishment in 2017 may be difficult.
Now in his 16th season as head coach at West, Andy Brunner returns the top part of that team in reigning sectional doubles champions Drew Boyles and Derek Henke. But with only two of its top six players returning this spring, it may take a while for the Maroons to round into top form.
“Our goal is to continue to work hard and to improve as the season goes on,” Brunner said. “We started earlier this year than we usually do, and while we have played some challenge matches, in some of them they have taken turns beating each other. That’s we have some spots in our lineup which are to be decided.
“But as far as a group of kids to be around and to coach, it’s been great. It’s just a good group of student-athletes.”
Led by Boyles and Henke, one of the state’s best duos a year ago, the Maroons top pair will also be the team’s top two players in singles.
Henke and Boyles are off to a 3-0 start after winning all three of their matches at the Triad tournament Saturday.
“I see improvement in both of their games,” Brunner said of his top two players. “They have put in the time in the offseason, and it shows.
“Plus with our schedule and the calibers of players we see at tournaments around the state, they are going see great competition nearly every weekend. It’s only going to prepare them even more for the end of the year when you want to be at your best. I see no reason why they shouldn’t be a top-16 seed.”
Senior Austin Quandt is the Maroons’ No. 3 singles player and was 21-8 while playing at that same spot a year ago, while senior Carter Tastad moves up from the top of the junior-varsity lineup to the No. 4 singles position in the varsity lineup.
Quandt and Tastad, both power players, will combine talents to play the No. 2 doubles position.
After the top four players, there are question marks for the Maroons. Brunner will try to mix and match a group of players who either saw limited time in doubles the varsity level or who played at the junior-varsity level as he looks for quality players to fill out the lineup card.
Among the contending players are seniors Brandon Strode, Pete Weck, Ben Blanquart and Austin Firestone, junior Easton Jaromin and sophomores Dylan Firestone and Andrew McCullough.