High School Sports

Experience and depth give Belleville East hopes for SWC crown

The Belleville East Lancers began preseason practice two weeks ago hoping that 2015 girls tennis season would truly be one to remember. So far it has been.

Three days removed from a second place finish in the Champaign Centennial Tournament, the Lancers opened the dual match portion of their schedule on Tuesday with an easy 8-1 win over perennial Mississippi Valley Conference power Triad. With two high-powered singles players at the top of the lineup and a deep group of seniors adding stability and leadership, East is off to exactly the kind of start coach Ross Peters had hoped for when the season began.

“We beat a very good Triad program yesterday (Tuesday). The only match we lost was at No. 1 singles where Kylie (McCarthy) beat Isabel (Burwitz). We would have like to have won that one for seeding purposes at the sectional tournament, but we may get another shot. Plus, McCarthy is a very good player,” Peters said. “We played well at Champaign (Centennial) this weekend. The only team which beat us was Homewood-Flossmoor, but I was pleased at how we played.

“We’re off to a good start and hoping to keep improving as the season goes on.”

A gifted all-around athlete, Burwitz begins her sophomore season as the Lancers top singles player. But following close behind is freshman Chloe McIsaac. Younger sister of former Lancers standout Rebecca McIsaac, Chloe McIsaac has the tennis background and all-around game to push Burwitz for the No. 1 spot.

“They are pushing each other every day in practice. That’s great. I hope that challenge each other every day all year because that kind of competition will only make them better when we get to the (Southwestern) conference and sectional and state meets in October,” Peters said of Burwitz and McIsaac. “Isabel is just a great all-around athlete whereas Chloe is also a good athlete with a very strong tennis background. I’m expecting them both to have good years.”

Four seniors fill the rest of the Lancers singles lineup. Rylan Lopez bounced back from an injury as a sophomore two years ago and is the Lancers No. 3 player while Sophie Von Hatten, Morgan Smith and Kaycie Dresch are among the top singles players in the SWC.

Now in his fourth year as the Lancers head coach, Peters will lean heavily on the quartet of seniors to be leaders both on and off the court.

“This is the group who were freshmen when I started four years ago. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to coach and be around such a great group of girls,” Peters said. “They’ve been around me and they know what I expect in this tennis program. They are all very good tennis players and its great to have a strong group of leaders.”

Sophomore Kendall Patton and senior Mary Zimmer close out the top eight players from Belleville East.

Peters feels defending SWC champion Edwardsville will be the team to beat with three schools — Belleville West, O’Fallon and Belleville East — also in the running.

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