HERRIN — There weren't too many surprises Friday in opening-round play of the nine-school IHSA Tennis Series Sectional tournament hosted by the Herrin Tigers.
Top singles player Margaux Bruce, a junior from Marion, won matches against Molly Goostree of Benton (6-2, 6-1) and Ali Benson of Mount Vernon, 6-1, 6-1 .
Marion head coach Carrie Watson said Bruce has been a consistent performer this season for the Wildcats.
"Margaux kept very focused today. We talked about playing point by point, and she did just that. On Saturday, she just has to have her head in the right place and be confident. When Margaux is confident, she plays tremendous tennis. It's all about hitting her marks, getting her serves in and moving her opponent around a little."
No. 2 seed Taylor Moore of Benton disposed of Paige Newlin of Marion, 6-3, 6-0 and Annabeth Webb of Vienna, 6-1, 6-0.
"I didn't let anybody get into my head today," said Moore, a junior. "On Saturday, I am going to try as hard as I can — play how I am capable."
Third-seeded Skylar Moore of Carbondale handled Marley Mallow of Carmi-White County, 6-2, 6-0 and Brittany Titzer of Fairfield (6-1, 6-0).
Fourth-seeded Jaylan Blake of Herrin also advanced to the semifinals with straight-set wins over Anne Schroeder of Mount Carmel, 6-1, 6-1, and Longuei Ge of Carbondale, 6-2, 7-5.
Herrin head coach Matt Snell said he was pleased with Blake's play.
"Jaylan has been with us for four years and has put in so much time and effort and has made herself into a really good tennis player," he said. "I'm so proud of her."
The top-seeded doubles team of seniors Kelby Weber and Bre Nesler of Herrin cruised to a pair of victories (6-1, 6-1) over Karigan Harvey and Lucy Britt of Fairfield and Jayda Smith-Emily Jones of Marion (6-3, 6-3).
"Kelby and I communicate great together," Nesler said following the two wins, which improved the duo's record this fall to 13-5 overall. "I'm a little stronger playing on the back line and Kelby is stronger at the net. My job is to set her up so she can go on the attack."
Nesler said the two seniors will have to be on top of their game Saturday in order to capture a doubles title.
"I think we have a really good shot if we play well. Carbondale will be tough, though. They have a good team."
Snell said he liked what he saw of his top-ranked tandem Friday.
"Kelby and Bre have been leaders on this team all season long. They earned the No. 1 seed and are trying to defend it. I look for good things from them Saturday."
The other doubles teams advancing Friday were: Shreya Patel-Jessie Harper of Carbondale, Madison Kreiner-Adriana Tonn of Benton and Jasmine Smith-Hannah Lueke of Carmi-White County.
Patel-Harper earned a 6-1, 6-1 win over Chloe Hill-Jersey Smith of Benton and 6-2, 6-3 victory over Liberty Smith-Kaeli Burchfield of Carmi-White County.
Patel, a senior, said she and Harper are hoping to even the score with Nesler-Weber after falling to the Tigers earlier this week in a doubles match.
"There will be no room for errors if we are to beat them and go on to win the tournament," she said. "We are going to have to get to every ball that we can. It's the end of the season otherwise. We have to play with all our heart."
Terriers head coach Mike Butler said he is confident that his team can play with anybody in the region when the players believe in themselves.
"I'm excited about Saturday's matches," he said. "Being consistent with our shots — keep them low and wide — and believe. That's what we have to do."
Kreiner-Tonn beat Daphne Johnson-Emma Shick of Carbondale, 6-2, 6-2, and then bested Charlotte Arnold-Grace Connor of Marion, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
Smith-Lueke rolled past Laini Kunce-Cassidy Webb of Fairfield (6-2, 6-1) and finally dispatched of Presli Karnes-Carli Mann of Herrin, 6-2, 6-2.
Team standings entering Saturday's championship rounds find Herrin and Carbondale tied for first with 16 points. Benton follows with 14 and Marion is next with 12. The Wildcats have captured the sectional team title each of the last two years.