High School Sports

Edwardsville captures 15th straight Southwestern Conference tennis title

The Edwardsville Tigers remarkable streak of excellence continued on Monday at the Edwardsville Tennis Complex.

Little known players when the season began, seniors Kyel Carlson, Jonathan Koons and Joe Mezo added their names to a growing list of Tigers who ended their careers as Southwestern Conference champions as Edwardsville won its 15th straight league tennis championship.

In the midst of their toughest competition in many years for the SWC title, Edwardsville entered the singles competition on Monday tied with Belleville East with O’Fallon just a point back.

But as they have done so many times before, the Tigers elevated their games, winning four of six flights, and posting a two-point win over Belleville East.

“I’m very proud of the players on this tennis team. The Southwestern Conference, I believe is the toughest one south of I-80 and this year the competition between the top five teams was as balanced as I’ve seen it in many years,’’ Tigers coach Dave Lipe said. “We knew coming into today that tied with Belleville East and with O’Fallon just a point back of us that we needed to play very good tennis and to our players’ credit, they stepped up and played very well today.”

Koons led the way for Edwardsville. One of only two players with a lot of experience returning when the season began, Koons defeated Belleville East sophomore Kobe Phillips 6-4, 6-3 in the No. 2 doubles final, while Mezo (No. 4 singles),, Carlson (No,. 5) and Carson Ware (No. 6) also won titles for Edwardsville, which finished the three day tournament with 67 points.

Belleville East, getting wins from Chase Stumne (No. 1 singles) and Jacob Hamilton (No 3) placed second with 65 points. O’Fallon (54), Belleville West (44) and Alton (40) rounded out the top five teams.

The 15th straight title prolongs the longest current streak by one school in any sport in the SWC. And while there have been years when Edwardsville has shared the title, the 15th one may be one of the most unexpected. Edwardsville lost four of its top six players from a year ago.

“I read somewhere before the season started that we were the favorites to win the conference. I felt that while we would have a good team, that Belleville East was the team to beat because they had a bunch of seniors back from a good team a year ago. Plus we had to replace four of our top six,’’ Lipe said. “Our players just vworked very hard for this. They had to because Belleville East was good, O’Fallon was good, Belleville West had a good team.

“But we’re going to enjoy this one tonight. Then tomorrow (Tuesday) we’ll start to prepare for the sectional.”

All of the singles finals were between Belleville East and Edwardsville. Mezoo defeated Austin Klug 6-2, 6-1 to win the No. 4 singles final, Carlson beat Joseph Jones 6-2, 6-0 at No. 5 singles and Ware nipped Todd Radil 7-5, 6-2 in the No. 6 singles division.

Belleville East senior Chase Stumne won the overall Southwestern Conference singles title, beating Edwardsville sophomore Erik Ware 6-4, 6-2 i n the No. 1 singles flight. Another East senior, Jacob Hamilton defeated Tigers’ freshman Alex Gray 6-3, 6-1 in the No. 3 singles final.

But it was a disappointing day for the Lancers. In the midst of another excellent season, East lost to Edwardsville only 5-4 in the SWC dual and had hopes of gaining a tie for the league title by winning the SWC Tournament on Monday. But it wasn’t meant to be for coach Dan Skaer’s team.

“Of course we wanted to win the Southwestern Conference title. We had six major goals when the season started. One was to beat Edwardsville in the dual match and the other was to win the SWC championship. We’ve still got four of those that we can still achieve and that’s what we’ll work on doing the the rest of the year,” Skaer said. “We came up short but it wasn’t from a lack of effort. We gave it everythind we had.

“Edwardsville was just better than we were. They’ve got a great program and coach (Dave) Lipe has to be one of the top coaches in the state.”

Belleville East won two of the three doubles flights. Doubles was completed on Friday with one round of singles held on Saturday.

Contact reporter Dean Criddle at dcriddle@bnd.com or 618-239-2661.