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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Jones makes qualifying for state routine

Sunday, May 23, 2004

(Photo)
Sikeston's Peter Jones
SIKESTON - The Sikeston High School tennis program has produced plenty of standouts over the years.

But there may not be a more successful Bulldog tennis player than senior Peter Jones, who recently qualified for his fourth state tournament appearance.

Jones is believed to be the only Sikeston tennis player to qualify for the state tournament four times.

"I don't know if it's a school record but at worst it's tied a school record because four times is the max you can go," said Sikeston tennis coach Brian James. "He's had an outstanding career here. He's been a four-year varsity guy, he was my manager in eighth grade. He's steadily improved every year and I think this year he made his greatest improvement. To me he's really stepped up his game and has been a good player for me."

Jones, who has reached state in doubles all four years, teamed up with 2003 graduate Ryne Vickery for three years and current teammate Chris Robey this season.

Jones and his partners have won the district doubles championship three years in a row to make the state tournament.

"That means a lot to me because I've worked hard for all of about six years that I've been playing," said Jones. "It's the pinnacle, to reach that level four times. My first year I was very surprised to make it to the district finals, much less make it to state. The next two years we were expected to make it. But this year wasn't as expected because Robey and I had not been playing well together. But we stepped up our game and played well that day."

"It's big to be a district champ three times, but when I look back I'm a little disappointed because my freshman year we played the same guys my sophomore year and we slaughtered those guys. But still, it means a lot to win those district championships."

Not only has Jones experienced individual success with his doubles partner, he is also believed to be the only Sikeston tennis player to ever play for three district championship teams, something they accomplished in 2001, 2002 and this year.

"He's certainly been a big cog in those district titles and last year's runner up finish," said James. "He's played a large role in our team success."

In his career, Jones has compiled a doubles record of 48-11 in the regular season and district matches.

He is also 37-11 in singles matches.

"Coming in he knew how to play and had played quite a bit at that point," said James. "He was immediately a varsity guy. He came in at number four or five. He's really grown and gotten a little taller. His footspeed has improved most notably and that's really helped his overall game."

Jones also had the make the transition to a totally different partner this year in Robey.

But more than anything, the biggest question was figuring out who Jones' partner would be.

"Going into the season, that was our big discussion before we even practiced," said James. "Chris just kind of naturally fell into that spot and it worked out real well for both of them. It's certainly a different approach.

"With Ryne his first three years, Ryne was probably the lead guy, if you will. They were very good together. Losing Ryne I knew would be a big change. Now with Chris, Peter is more of the take-charge guy in that partnership. I don't think it was a difficult transition for him."

Jones said the resemblances in his and Robey's game made it a smooth transition.

"It was a pretty quick adjustment because we've got similar games," said Jones. "We're both good forehands and good serves. Usually we both don't double fault, so it was an easy transition."

After the two paired up, winning the district championship certainly wasn't a given with Charleston's Blake Branum and Less Hess standing in the way.

"Going in we knew they would have their hands full with Charleston's doubles combination that got fourth in the state last year," said James.

"But I was confident with Peter that whoever we matched up with him would make a good doubles team. It wasn't really surprising to me, but at the same time it was a nice job that they were able to pick it up and compete at such a high level."

But having a new partner doesn't mean Jones expects anything less. He's still shooting for an all-state finish.

"I want to at least win our first two matches so we can get fourth," said Jones. "That's my goal this year. We both are going to have to be playing well and serving well. We're going to have to bring our best game."

James said Jones' three years of state experience can do nothing but help him this time.

"Peter's been there three times so he's not going to be nervous," said James. "Chris is really excited about going. They just need some luck and hope you get a favorable draw."

When Jones graduates this year, James says he's not just losing a good tennis player, but a well-rounded person.

"Peter's such a good kid and so very likeable," said James. "Everybody likes him -- his teammates, the student body in general. He enjoys great academic success as well.

"He's just a pleasure to be around and he's certainly going to be missed next year along with those other seniors. I fully expect all of them to do very well in life because they've put forth the effort in high school and have left their mark here at Sikeston."