Friends since they were in the first grade at Wolf Branch School, Jacob Hamilton and Chase Stumne will go their separate ways when they graduate later this Spring from Belleville East High School.
But before that happens, they have a little business on the tennis court to attend too.
After placing in the top 12 in the doubles competition at the Illinois High School Association State Tennis Tournament a year ago, the Lancers top team has different — but much higher goals — in mind this season.
“Jacob said his goal is to be in the top 4. Well, mine is to be in the top 1,’’ Stumne said. “You have to believe it and have confidence that you can do it. If we get hot and play like we can, I think we can play with any team in the state.’’
And for the last two years they have. Currently 4-0 this season, Hamilton and Stumne will carry a 70-19 career mark into their city showdown with Belleville West on Wednesday. With the prestigious Moline Invitational set for this weekend and the 16-team Belleville East Invitational scheduled for April 24-25, Stumne and Hamilton will be tested often.
“We haven’t played a lot of matches yet this season and we’ve been doing some different things with our singles lineup. But with (Belleville West) and the two tournaments we have in the next two weeks, they will get some high quality matches,’’ Lancers coach Dan Skaer said. “Finishing in the top 12 and getting to the third day of the state finals doesn’t happen very often. Chase and Jacob opened some eyes last year.’’
Neither Hamilton or Stumne have played tennis very long. Stumne, whose brother Corey Stumne played at East and teamed with Drew Feder to place eighth doubles at the state finals one year, grew up playing baseball and didn’t play competitive tennis until the eighth grade. Hamilton has played just slightly longer.
“About six years, I guess. I played baseball, basketball, soccer and I even bowled,’’ Hamilton said. “One day, I picked up a racquet and just fell in love with the sport.
“I like playing singles, but I like doubles more. I like the team aspect of it. The dynamics of it. It’s just so much more energized then singles in my view.
Both players have similar weaknesses and strengths. Neither Stumne or Hamilton possess the overpowering serve or forehands which whistle into corners or land inches inside the baseline.
But both Stumne and Hamilton are tenacious competitors with the ability to play at the net and the speed and quickness to run down any shot.
“They are the best defensive tennis players I’ve ever had here at East,’’ Skaer said. “Chase (Stumne) has the best hands at the net since probably Drew (Feder) played here seven or eight years ago now. Jacob is our athlete. He’s our acrobat. He has great speed and gets everything back. A guy will hit what would be a winner against anybody else, but Jacob finds a way to get the ball back on court.
“Plus they are great friends as well. That’s a huge part of their success. If they have a weakness, its that they don’t win many easy points. They have to work hard for every point they get.’’
While older brother Corey Stumne was a standout tennis player at East, Chase Stumne had no desire to follow in his footsteps. At least in the beginning.
“I hated tennis. I was a baseball player and that was my passion. At least until one morning when I woke up and decided I hated baseball,’’ Stumne said. “My dad thought I needed something to do in high school and so when I was in the eighth grade is when I started playing tennis.
“I’ve worked hard on my game over the last few years and have really improved my serve and my mental game over the last year. You have to have a positive outlook and the confidence that if you work hard and believe that you can be successful.. My serve has gotten more consistent and Jacob and I are both good at the net.
Unlike Stumne, Hamilton’s goal of a top 4 finish may be a bit more realistic. But Hamilton does agree that a positive mental outlook both before and during the match is a key to their success.
“ just think its the chemistry that we have. We’ve known each other for a long time and we’re good friends off the court as well,’’ Hamilton said. “We just don’t let things get us down. If we hit a bad shot or have an occasional bad game, its more positive then negative. It’s like ‘how can we play the next point better.’
We just try to scrap. We try to get every ball back on the court and play every point as well as we can.
Both players will continue to play tennis at the college level. Hamilton will attend Milliken University in Decatur and will major in pre-pharmacy. Stumne will attend Harding University in Searcy, Ark. where he will major in biology.