High School Sports

Mascoutah sophomore Andy Graf earns top seed at Belleville East Tennis Sectional

Youth will be served if the seeds hold to form in the singles draw at the Belleville East Sectional Tennis Tournament that begins on Friday at Belleville East High School and Southwestern Illinois College.

Mississippi Valley Conference champion Andy Graf of Mascoutah and Belleville East freshman Max Skaer are the top two seeds in the event which features many of the top players in southern Illinois.

Graf, a sophomore who reached the sectional title match a year ago, is one of the top-ranked junior players in the St. Louis area. The Indians standout finished 3-2 in his first trip to the state finals in 2015. Skaer is coming off a loss to Zach Trimpe, of Edwardsville, in the singles final at the Southwestern Conference Tournament last week. Playing in the highly competitive Southwestern Conference, the freshman has more than held his own against older netmen.

“They’ve played a lot against each other in the summer in tournaments and they practice with each other on occassion. They know each other well,” Belleville East coach Dan Skaer said of Graf and his son. “I know the competition that Max plays in the SWC is very good and that may give him an advantage but I think Andy has played tougher competition this year.”

The competition figures to be keen at the Belleville East Sectional that begins at 2 p.m. Doubles and singles matches will be held at both East and Southwestern Illinois College. Semifinals and finals are set to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday at Belleville East.

Both Mascoutah and Belleville East are expected to be in the race for the team title along with Belleville West. The Maroons, which placed second at the SWC Tournament, have the top two seeds in doubles in Drew Boyles and Derek Henke along with second seeded Nick Harry and Ian Burger.

Both Maroons doubles teams qualified for the state finals last year. West coach Andy Brunner knows the Belleville East Sectional will be very competitive.

“The Belleville Sectional is the strongest around, but even so, we have high expectations. Our top four players are returning doubles state qualifiers. We hope they will qualify for the state tournament and finish on or toward the top on Saturday,” Brunner said. “ I imagine the team points will be close because of so many talented players coming from West, East, Centralia and Mascoutah.”

The top four placewinners in both singles and doubles at sectionals around the state this weekend will advance to the IHSA Boys State Tennis Tournament, May 26-28 in suburban Chicago. Following are quick looks at the Edwardsville and Triad Sectionals.

Edwardsville Sectional

After a pair of impressive wins at Naperville and last week at the Southwestern Conference Tournament, the Edwardsville Tigers shouldn’t be pushed too much when they host the IHSA Sectional at the Edwardsville High School Tennis Complex.

The Tigers are led by the SWC champion in freshman Zach Trimpe and Alex Gray and Erik Weiler. Gray won the No. 2 singles flight at the SWC Tournament while Weiler took the No. 3 division.

Also competing at the Edwardsville Sectional are Alton, Marquette, Civic Memorial, Metro East Lutheran, Jerseyville, Roxana and East Alton-Wood River.

Triad Sectional

O’Fallon, led by sophomore Dominic Macaluso, looks to be the team to beat in this eight team event which includes Collinsville, Greenville, Hillsboro, Triad, Highland, Flora and Granite City.

The Panthers, who placed third in the Southwestern Conference Tournament behind Edwardsville and Belleville West, also feature Riley Muren and Shree Patel on a deep and talented squad which once again is among the elite in southern Illinois.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean