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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Peterson shoots for top four finish

Sunday, May 4, 2003

Charleston's Alec Peterson is currently 10-0 on the season.
CHARLESTON -- Alec Peterson is already considered the top high school tennis player in Southeast Missouri.

Soon, the Charleston junior is hoping to prove himself as one of the state's best.

The Class 1-3 District 1 Tournament will take place May 15 in Sikeston. The first and second place finishers there will advance to the state tournament in Springfield.

Peterson hopes to first qualify for state, then become the first local player to place in the top six in over 10 years. "Top four is what I'm looking at," said Peterson. "If I do better, that's great. I've played all of the top competitors and kind of know where I stand in the state. I think I can do it this year."

Placing at state would be a fitting end to the great season Peterson has put together.

"I've had many excellent players, and he ranks right up there at the top," said Charleston coach Mitch Baker. "We're fortunate to have him on our team. He's had a great season, and we're hoping he can keep it going. Hopefully he can make a little noise at state."

Peterson has a record of 10-0 this year, beating such high-profile opponents as Carbondale's Steven Yau and Lone Oak's Elliott Triece.

He is expected to pick up the top seed in this year's district.

"He's a very good athlete," said Sikeston tennis coach Brian James. "He's big and strong, and covers the court well. He is also a good serve-and-volleyer. He's got a complete game. I don't think there's any question he will go in as the top seed."

James coached the area's best player last season, Stephen Pobst, and sees similarities with Peterson.

"They're different types of players, but he's as dominant as Pobst was," said James. "Pobst relied more on consistency and was fundamentally sound. Peterson is more of a power player that relies more on putaways and winners. They're both very talented."

Peterson has been playing competitive tennis since the age of 12. His high school career began on a sour note, when he injured his right shoulder prior to his freshman season. "He's had an excellent career," said Baker. "It's just a shame he had to start his freshman year with such a horrible injury. He ended up playing that year as my number one most of the year, playing left-handed. That's just a testament to how dedicated he is to the game. Even left-handed, he was still a phenomenal player."

The injuries didn't stop with his right shoulder. Peterson also hurt his hip as a freshman, finishing the season with a singles record of 3-3.

He came back strong as a sophomore last year, finishing with a record of 10-4, taking second in the district behind Sikeston's Pobst.

At state, Peterson lost to his first-round opponent in a three-set tiebreaker. Due to inclement weather, the consolation bracket was canceled and Peterson was eliminated from the tournament.

"I firmly believe he could've come back and placed," said Baker.

This year, Peterson hopes for better results at state. In order to place, he has to finish among the top six of the 16 state qualifiers.

"I think I've really gone up a couple of levels," said Peterson. "Last year I really didn't have a realistic chance of winning. This year I've stepped my game up, competed in a lot of tournaments and beaten a lot of quality players. I'm feeling really confident. Hopefully I can bring a win back to Southeast Missouri. It has been a long time since somebody from a public school has done it."

Of course before Peterson can start focusing on state, he has to finish first or second in the upcoming district tournament.

"I feel like I'm the front-runner (in the district)," said Peterson. "If I play well, I don't see myself getting beat this year."

Peterson attributes his success to Dennis Riney, a physical therapist from St. Francis Medical Center, Charleston assistant coach Seth Benton and Shane Anderson.

"(Riney) is the one that got me back from my injury," explained Peterson. "If not for him, I would probably still be on the couch icing my shoulder. Seth Benton works with me all year round and tones my tennis game. Shane is an ex-pro and plays with me every week. All of those guys have really helped."

During the off-season, Peterson participates in the sectional level of the United States Tennis Association's circuit. On the USTA Tour, he competes against the top players from Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas.

In his age division, Peterson is currently ranked No. 1 in the Missouri district and No. 14 in the five-state region. He won the Missouri title last December and also beat No. 31 player in the nation back in February.

"This summer, I want to be ranked among the top 100 in the nation for juniors," said Peterson. "I'm qualified for all the big tournaments this summer. Right after the high school season ends, I'm going to Omaha to compete in a national tournament. I'm really looking forward to the summer."