The top doubles team in Southern Illinois during the 2015 tennis season, Belleville East seniors Chase Stumne and Jacob Hamilton are ready to take on the best in the state — again.
After placing in the top 12 at the IHSA state finals a year ago, Hamilton and Sumne begin their quest towards a top eight or better finish today when the three day Illinois High School Association Boys State Tennis Tournament begins in suburban Chicago.
Winners of the Southwestern Conference and IHSA Sectional doubles crowns the past two weeks, Stumne and Hamilton have been seeded in the No. 5-8 seeds in the doubles draw and will take on Brendan Axelson and Joel Sutter of Metamora in a first round match at Buffalo Grove High School beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Three full rounds of matches in both singles and doubles will held on courts throughout the Chicago area Thursday in the double elimination event, which concludes on Saturday afternoon.
“I think we’re ready to go. We’ve had another outstanding season and we’re got four entries playing in the state finals. Our hope is for Jacob and Chase to have a nice long run in doubles and for our other entries to win some matches in the winners backet then do well in consolation,” Lancers coach Dan Skaer said. “I think being seeded in the 5-8 group was fair and if they play like they have all year, hopefully they’ll be playing on Saturday. That’s one of our goals.”
Also representing the Lancers in doubles are Clayton Baldus and Sam Kellow, while Kobi Phillps and Austin Klug will compete in singles. Belleville West also has a pair of doubles teams competing, including Drew Boyles and Derek Henke, along with Ian Burger and Nick Harry.
Like Belleville East, perennial state power Edwardsville and O’Fallon also qualified four entries to the state finals. Hoping for their fourth straight top 10 finish in the team competition, Edwardsville will be led by its No. 1 doubles team of Jonathan Koons and Alex Gray, who were seeded in the 17-32 group.
Sectional champion Erik Weiler will lead the way for Edwardsville in singles and will take on Zach Plocher of Highland in his first match Thursday. Tigers coach David Lipe, although optimstic about how his team will play, wouldn’t predict where he thought his team would finish in the team competiiton.
“I don’t like putting an emphasis on if we’ll be in the top 10? top 12? or top 15? The goal is to play at the same level we have all year or maybe a little better. This is what you work all season for. Why we play in the tournaments that we play in for. To get us ready for the state tournament,“ Lipe said. “It’s been a great season up to this point and I have no reason to believe that we won’t go up to the state finals this weekend and play very well.”
Other top local players to watch this weekend include sectional champions Dominic Macaluso of O’Fallon and Andy Graf of Mascoutah in singles along with O’Fallon’s Neal Shekar and Shree Patel in doubles.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.