SIKESTON - The Charleston Bluejays will be the favorite once again when the Class 1, District 1 boys tennis tournament kicks off tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. at Sikeston High School.
Charleston will be looking to repeat as the district champions as they have the top-seeded singles player and the top-seeded double team.
Sikeston, which won the district two years in a row prior to last year's narrow loss to Charleston, will be one of the favorites as well.
"It is a tough district with Charleston returning most of their team from last year and St. Pius is good," said Sikeston coach Brian James. "Dexter's also got a strong team. I think we'll have to have a lot of things go our way. Our seeded guys need to at least play out to their seeds and maybe even further. Our two entries that aren't seeded need to play into contention for us to compete as a team."
Sikeston's Marc Leible is seeded third in singles behind defending champion and top-seeded Alec Peterson and No. 2 Derek Hoppe, both of Charleston.
Sikeston's doubles team of Peter Jones and Chris Robey is seeded second behind Charleston's Lee Hess and Blake Branum.
Jones, a three-time state qualifier, teamed up with 2003 graduate Ryne Vickery to win the doubles championship last year.
"Peter Jones has gone three times and he wants to go a fourth time," said James. "Marc Leible went last year and Chris Robey is wanting a chance to go. So certainly they would like to repeat and go again and some of the other guys would like to get there as well. I think they set their goals high and they want to go to state play."
Sikeston went 10-3 during the regular season. To advance, the Bulldogs have to finish in the top two as a team. Individuals can also advance to state play by finishing in the top two.
Also seeded in singles Erin Swaller, a girl from St. Pius X.
In doubles, Dexter's James Ford and Ben Smith are seeded third in front of Arcadia Valley's Cody Davis and Jarvis Debrecht. St. Pius X's Sanna Jamal and Steve Werkmeister are seeded fifth in doubles.
"A lot of things will have to fall into place to win districts," said Charleston coach Mitch Baker. "Everybody on the team has to help and you have to get a little bit lucky with good draws. A lot of the district tournament is the luck of the draw and a lot of things have to fall into place. We have as good a shot as anybody."
District qualifiers will compete in the sectional on Saturday, May 22.
Sikeston's doubles team of Sam Zhao and Kyle Weeks will be competing in district play as well as singles player Chris Matthews.
While the three are considered longshots, James says every match they can win will help the team.
"Winning the district is a possibility, but it helps getting at least three of your entries into the semifinals," said James. "Last year it came down to the wire with us and Charleston and for us to have a chance to win it this year, it's going to be a close finish again."