If there is one thing Belleville East tennis coach Dan Skaer has learned in his career it is what it takes to be successful at the boys state tennis tournament.
Competing in the high-powered Southwestern Conference, along with Southern Illinois power Edwardsville and programs such as Belleville West, O’Fallon and Alton, the Lancers have been one of the best teams around with a pair of top 12 state tournament finishes in the last two years.
The key to that success, according to Skaer, is being able to put elite entries in both singles and doubles.
“When we were ninth in state two years ago, we were able to do that and then last year we had two good singles players and a doubles team that placed in the top 12. That’s what it takes. You’ve got to have at least one and in a lot of cases two entries who can go deep in the main draw,’’ Skaer said. “West had that a few years ago and Edwardsville has had a doubles entry do well in each of the last few years.
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“I think we’ve got a doubles team in Chase (Stumne) and Jacob (Hamilton) who are capable of doing that this season.’’
Now seniors, who placed in the top 12 in doubles a year ago, Hamilton and Stumne along with the rest of the Lancers will open their season Saturday at the Triad Invitational. Along with junior Kobi Phillips, the trio will be keys as East looks to unseat Edwardsville for the Southwestern Conference championship.
“Edwardsville graduated some awfully good players from last year, but I think they’re still the team to beat. (Coach) Dave Lipe has a great program and they will be tough to beat,’’ Skaer said. “I know O’Fallon is supposed to be very strong and then you’ve got Belleville (West) and Alton with solid teams.’’
While graduation took its toll on Edwardsville, East also lost several good players.
The Lancers return their top three along with (Todd) Michael Radil. Also back are Sam Kellow, Clayton Baldus, Matt MacAinsh, Vincent Gass and Joseph Jones, all of whom played at least some varsity a year ago.
“We’ve got several players, good players who spent a lot of time in the offseason playing tournaments and working on their games, who are battling for spots in the lineup. Where they will play is still up in the air right now. It’s that close,’’ Skaer said. “There are several players who played in either singles or doubles or who were at the top of the junior-varsity, who we’re counting on to be able to elevate their games and compete higher in the lineup.”
Skaer also has high hopes for junior William Klug and promising freshman Christian Cowulich.