Edwardsville junior Alex Gray and sophomore Zach Trimpe snapped a long drought Saturday in the boys state tennis tournament.
The Tigers’ doubles team won the Class 2A state championship by defeating Hinsdale Central’s Trevor Hamilton and Andrew Buhelos 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in Arlington Heights. It’s the first doubles title for a metro-east team since 1928.
“It’s practically surreal, to be honest with you,” Edwardsville coach Dave Lipe said. “The way this came together, the way these boys came together and the tournament they had, and the closeness of the matches and they way they battled, it’s surreal. I don’t even know how else to describe it.”
Gray and Trimpe, seeded No. 1 in the tournament, opened Saturday with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Lake Forest’s Jack Armstrong and Connor Olender in the semifinals. That assured that they would finish higher than last season, when they placed fourth.
The only other metro-east doubles championships came from East St. Louis in 1923 and Greenville in 1928.
Lipe said strong suits for Gray and Trimpe were “their ability to manage their emotions and their ability to have a strong mental game.”
“It was those intangibles more so than tennis skill,” he said. “Obviously, tennis skill got them to where they were, but I think there were probably a handful of teams all with pretty comparable skill. They were able to persevere even when they were down a couple of times. So I think that was the difference.”
Lipe was tracking the tournament from Edwardsville because he had been voted to read the names of graduates during commencement exercises at the high school. One of those graduates was his daughter.
“I had to make a commitment to my family and this (graduating) class to come back to Edwardsville late Thursday night,” Lipe said. “So I was up there for the first day of the tournament, but I was with our singles guys. I turned over our No. 1 doubles team to assistant coach Paul Stuart, one of our principals at EHS.
“Paul’s been there before with our kids reaching the semifinals. Paul’s been coaching with me for a long time, and I had total confidence in Paul. I was getting texts and updates throughout the tournament, and literally, before I walked into the gym to being the ceremony, I got word that we won the whole thing. I shed a tear or two. It was pretty overwhelming.”
Lipe said he made eye contact with Trimpe’s father, Trevor, in the Edwardsville gym.
“He and I exchanged fist pumps, and that was it. It was like we were acknowledging what had happened,” Lipe said. “I owed it to those kids in the graduating class to do the best that I could. I was in shock. That’s the best way to describe it. But it was a happy occasion; it was a happy day. It was a phenomenal experience. Those were moments I’ll never forget.”
Lipe said he’s known both Gray and Trimpe since they were about 8 years old.
“It’s tough to explain what that feels like when you’ve known these kids, seemingly, their entire lives,” Lipe said. “It adds depth to the experience that’s kind of hard to describe.”