High School Sports

Belleville East, Belleville West look to challenge in SWC tennis title race

The Belleville East Lancers opened the girls tennis season with one of the top 1-2 singles combinations in the Southwestern Conference in junior Isabel Burwitz and sophomore Chloe McIsaac.

Coach Ross Peters also has a top freshman and one of the best 14-under players in the St. Louis area in Lauren Cowulich who will hold down the No. 3 singles spot. But if the Lancers are to pose a threat to mighty Edwardsville in the Southwestern Conference this Fall, it will be with their depth.

“Isabel and Chloe give us a good 1-2 at the top of the lineup and Lauren (Cowlich) has clearly established herself as our No. 3 player, but after our top three we’ve got a bunch of girls who are pretty even,’’ Peters said. “Our strength will be with our depth. They are pushing each other in practice and that competition will do nothing but make us better not only this year but in the next couple of years.’’

O’Fallon along with East, which opened its season with a win over Triad, figure to be the main threats to Edwardsville’s dominance in the SWC this season. In the speedy Burwitz, Peters has one of the top overall athletes in the the league. With McIsaac and Burwitz leading the way, East is off to a 3-0 record in dual matches.

“Isabel had a big win against a player from Triad that she had lost to over the summer. It was a marathon that lasted almost three hours, but hopefully it was one which will help her the rest of the season,’’ Peters said. “Chloe had a great freshman season and was voted as the ‘Newcomer of the Year’ in the Southwestern Conference last year which was a great honor for her. We’re looking for both Isabel and Chloe to be our leaders this year.

Freshman Maddie Buschur and older sister, junior Lauren Buschur, are the Lancers No. 4-5 players while the Lancers lone senior —Carolyn Kriegshauser — rounds out the top six players.

Junior Caroline Smith and freshman Joanna Skaer are the Lancers No. 7 and No. 8 players.

Maroons off and running

The names have changed but coach Jenny Mennerick has the Maroons program in good shape with a pair of wins in the early going of the ‘16 season. West, which lost most of its varsity lineup to graduation, opened with a convincing win over Danville then defeated Collinsville in its Southwestern Conference opener.

West had its opening tournament of the season — the Champaign Centennial Invitational — canceled by rain.

“I’ve been very happy with the way these girls have come in and worked. We knew last year that we would have a lot of new players in the lineup because of who were graduating, but to the credit of these players we’ve worked hard and shown a lot of improvement over the Summer and in practice so far. I really like what I see,’’ Mennerick said.

“I was very pleased with the win over Danville. Because we are so young and inexperienced, it was important that we get out to a good start and give the girls a little boost in confidence. I just want us to keep improving as the season goes on. If we do that, the wins will come and we’ll have a successful year.’’

The Maroons are young and inexperienced in ‘16. Two seniors — Madison Kokotovich and Jillian Rosenkranz — hold down the top two singles spots. Kokotovich is one of only a couple of players who saw time in the varsity lineup a year ago, playing some singles and doubles.

And while Kokotovich is making a jump to the No. 1 spot where she will play some of the top players in the state, Mennerick thinks her senior is ready for the challenge.

“We knew that Madison would be playing at the top this year and to her credit she has worked hard to elevate her game to where I think she’ll be very competitive with most of the players she does up against,’’ Mennerick said. “It’s a big jump but she’s looking forward to the challenge.’’

Three freshmen — Grace Bauer and the Fiedlers — Taylor and Kaitlyn — hold down the No. 3-5 singles spots while sophomore Natalie Soehnlin, junior Delaney Foster and sophomore Isabel Papachrisanthou round out the Maroons top eight players