High School Sports

Young West boys tennis team will strive to improve

As the start of the 2015 tennis season approaches, Belleville West boys tennis coach Andy Brunner isn’t all that concerned about wins and losses for his young, unproven squad.

With several spots to fill in the starting lineup, Brunner is hoping the Maroons will be competitive in a Southwestern Conference, which appears to be as deep as it has been in many years.

“When you talk about tennis in the Southwestern Conference, it’s some of the best in the state year after year. In the past few years, we (West) had our run when we had Nick (Birger) and Brian Zaron, who did well at state. Belleville East has done well up there and Edwardsville, the last few years has been very strong,’’ Brunner said. “This year, Edwardsville and East are strong again and O’Fallon’s got three very good players at the top of their lineup and should be very solid.

“As for our team, I’m not going to say we want to have an above .500 record. What I want to see from our players is the ability to compete. If we compete well each match and the players continue to work hard and improve, in most cases the wins will follow.’’

West, which opens its season on April 3 at the Edwardsville Invitational, must find replacements for its state-qualifying doubles squad of Cole Henke and Cole Lewis from a year ago.

Looking to take over the top spot are senior Jeff Kleinatis and sophomore Drew Boyles.

Both players competed in the middle of the Maroons’ lineup last season and are anxious to prove they can compete with the best the SWC has to offer.

“They’ve both improved and have done the work in the offseason to prepare for the year. As a coach, you kind of expect that the top players are doing what they’re suppose to in terms of tournaments and working with their professionals,’’ Brunner said. “Jeff and Drew are competing hard right now for the No. 1 singles spot. The other will be our No. 2 player.’’

Four players, including much improved seniors Nick Harry and Sam Kaeser, are all vying for the Nos. 3-6 singles spots. Junior Ian Burger and highly-touted sophomore Derek Henke are also in the mix for a top six position in singles. Senior J.D. Bass, junior Sam Calhoun and sophomore Austin Quandt also are battling for starting spots in either singles or doubles.

“The top two players — Jeff (Kleinatis) and Drew (Boyles) — are clearly our top two players. But I’ve been very pleased to see how much improvement some of our other players have made since last season,’’ Brunner said. “I’m optimistic because this is a good group of kids and they have really played well in tryouts and in practice. I’m anxious to get the season started and I know they are too.’’