(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
Sikeston singles player Marc Leible and doubles players Peter Jones and Chris Robey, along with Charleston singles player Alec Peterson and doubles players Blake Branum and Less Hess will be shooting for a state title at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
While the competition is fierce at the state tournament, Sikeston coach Brian James says it all has to do with who the players are paired up against.
"There's a lot of competition up there with a lot of great players from around the state with John Burroughs, Clayton, Pembroke Hill, MICDS and others," said James. "So much of this depends on the draw. If you get a favorable draw you've got a chance to win a couple matches and you can get into the championship round. I know our guys would all like to medal and that's a goal they have. It's not going to be easy, but if they play well and they get a decent draw then they can do so."
Leible qualified last year in singles while Jones is a four-time qualifier. But neither has ever placed at the state tournament.
"I think it helps to have been there before," said James. "It's an enjoyable trip. You see lots of good players and they have a tremendous facility there. I know Marc and Peter are excited to be back and Chris is excited to go for the first time. Every little bit of experience you can get helps."
Jones and Robey are 13-3 this season while Leible is also 13-3.
For Charleston, Peterson and Branum and Hess both finished fourth in the state tournament last year. Peterson is currently 16-2 on the season while Branum and Hess are 11-2.
"It's a lot like any tournament," said Charleston coach Mitch Baker. "If they get a decent draw then the boys could make some noise up there. We're playing about as well as we can play right now so anything can happen."
Peterson may have the best shot at placing high as he is one of the top returners on paper.
"Alec should have a decent draw because he's the second highest placer returning," said Baker. "Last year's defending state champion didn't qualify and the kid that got third graduated. So Alec's one of the top returners, but there's a bunch of excellent players up there in singles and doubles."
Baker said Branum and Hess may have a tougher road.
"The team that beat them for third is back and I know that John Burroughs has an excellent doubles team," said Baker. "There will be a lot of excellent competition so hopefully we can get up there and play our best a let the chips fall where they may."