Michael Lesko | Athlete of the Week

Gibault’s Michael Lesko (left) is pictured with coach Jay Haines (right) holding the singles sectional tournament draw sheet, showing his championship run on Saturday. (submitted photos)

Gibault High School tennis player Michael Lesko is this week’s Republic-Times Athlete of the Week.

Lesko became the first Hawks tennis player to win a sectional singles title Saturday. This will now be the junior’s second year in a row qualifying for state, last year he became the first to qualify from GHS in over two decades.

Below is a sneak peak at the article on Lesko and other local tennis players state qualifying achievements. 

Lesko wins sectionals, Lange, Bourgeois qualify for state

Last week’s edition of the Republic-Times told about the up-and-coming local boys tennis scene and this past week the local programs proved themselves, having players qualify for state from each school.

Gibault junior Michael Lesko became the first GHS boys tennis player to win a singles sectional and seniors Damon Lange and Clayton Bourgeois became the third doubles team to qualify for state from Waterloo, according to former WHS coach and AD Rick Keefe, the first since Adam Borgschulte and Wils Hawn in 2009.

Lesko can now say he is one of 32 sectional champions in the entire state after this past weekend.

The Hawks junior took first place in the Carbondale Regional singles competition, blowing past his first opponent from Herrin, 6-0, 6-0, after having a first round bye.

“From the get-go he was extremely focused and determined,” GHS assistant tennis coach and Michael’s father Alan Lesko explained, adding that his son seemed to have total control of his second match where he defeated his Benton competitor, 6-0, 6-0.

Lesko was having a great day on the court, returning all of his serve receives and controlling his shots. “He never let down and never let anyone get close,” Alan added.

The Gibault junior went on to defeat Aaron Niebert of Mount Vernon, 6-2, 6-1, in the semifinals and pulled out a competitive match against one of the best players in the area, Carbondale’s Cam McElheny, 6-2, 6-1, in the sectional championship.

Pictured, from left, are Waterloo’s Clayton Bourgeois and Damon Lange after qualifying for the state tennis tournament. 

Over on the other side of town is the pair of Lange/Bourgeois. With four years of high school tennis under their belts, the doubles team members are finishing each other’s sentences.

“It wouldn’t be a better ending than to go to state,” Bourgeois said of their senior season, while Lange added, “no matter what, we met our goal.”

The pair came into the Belleville West sectional Saturday seeded No. 5, defeating Collinsville’s No. 1 team, 6-4, 6-1, and Belleville West’s No. 2 team, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Those two wins on their way to a fourth place finish taught the duo a lot for this weekend’s state tournament.

“You’ve got to get the first serve in,” Lange and Bourgeois said in unison.

Lange and Bourgeois went on to lose the final two rounds of sectional play, but they won’t tell you anything negative about the experience.

“There is no team that’s unbeatable,” Lange said. “We played a Belleville East team and we were supposed to get killed by them, but we ended up going 3-6, 1-6, which doesn’t seem too good,” Bourgeois followed up. “But if you saw how good of a team they were, that game could’ve gone any way.”

Their coach is just as proud of their efforts.

“They get to be fortunate enough to call themselves one of the best teams in the state, period,” WHS tennis coach Brett Ivers said. Because there is no class system in Illinois tennis, the little guys play with the big guys.

But Ivers still has the task of getting the two to come down a bit from cloud nine.

“Right now they think this is all icing on the cake, but there is still a lot of tennis left to play,” Ivers stressed.

The IHSA boys state tennis tournament begins Thursday and runs through Saturday and will be played in Arlington Heights, outside of Chicago.

Congrats Michael, good luck at state!

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