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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Sikeston tennis prepares to rebuild

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Sikeston's Chris Matthews returns a shot.
SIKESTON - The Sikeston Bulldogs tennis team returns one state qualifier and will be counting on numerous underclassmen for the 2005 season.

The Bulldogs, district champions four of the last five years including an upset of Charleston last year, will have little experience other than Marc Leible, who went 13-3 last year in singles competition while taking second in the district.

He went 0-2 in the state tournament, which was his second appearance.

"We're looking for good things out of Marc Leible," said Sikeston coach Brian James. "He's a senior and a three-year varsity guy. He's qualified for state the last two years and he should be as good as anybody around."

The Bulldogs must find a way to replace graduated seniors Peter Jones and Chris Robey, who were not only solid singles players, but the duo took fourth in the state in doubles last year.

Leible is the obvious leader of the team and James expects big things from his lone experienced senior.

"He's kind of deceiving," said James. "He's a laid back player and he kind of looks like he drifts along, but all he does is win out there. He's a very good athlete and a lot of people may not know that. But he's very quick to the ball and he's got great strokes. He's just a well-rounded player and I look for him to be one of the top players in the area."

With Leible moving up to the No. 1 single spot, James will have inexperience at the rest of the spots with the exception of junior Chris Matthews, who will be No. 2.

Matthews played at the sixth singles spot last year.

Junior Grant Ingram and freshman Clayton Matthews currently occupy the third and fourth spots respectively.

One player that has showed capable of securing one of the final two varsity spots is sophomore Logan Hampton.

"He's really improved and he's probably the front-runner for one of those last two spots," said James. "It's really pretty even after that."

James has four freshmen competing for varsity spots, which is more than the norm at Sikeston. But he sees it as a positive for the program.

"It's always good to have freshmen, particularly if they've played before and these kids have played before," said James. "So we're not starting from scratch. It's always nice to have one or two freshmen in your top six because that's usually a big a building block for the future. This year could probably be considered a rebuilding-type year --

we lost some really good seniors last year and they'll be very difficult to replace."

In addition to Clayton Matthews, freshmen Charlie Jones, Justin Deere and Seth Colwick are all youngsters vying for spots.

Others that are competing are senior Ross Bucher, and juniors Craig Millington, Andrew Powell and Tyler Wallace.

While the Bulldogs will be hard-pressed to duplicate last year's 10-3 record, James still thinks his young team has the ingredients to improve enough to contend for another district title.

"We always point towards the district," said James. "You want to win the district championship as a team and you want to get individuals to qualify for state. That's what we try to shoot for every year and we build up to that point. I think that's a realistic goal. We've got some good teams in our district with Dexter, Charleston and St. Pius X, so we've got our work cut out for us in that area."

Sikeston will open the season March 24 with a home match against Kennett.