EDWARDSVILLE – The doubles team of McClain Kessler and Preston Touliatos have made quite a showing at this week’s Edwardsville Futures presented by The EGHM Foundation tennis tournament at the Edwardsville Tennis Center.

From winning a spot in the main draw after winning the inaugural Sunday Doubles Shootout last Sunday afternoon, the pair have parlayed that win into a spot in the doubles semifinals on Friday after having defeated Abraham Asaba of Ghana and Charlie Emhardt 6-2, 3-6, 10-7 in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon. Kessler and Touliatos play against George Goldhoff and Alfredo Perez for a spot in Saturday’s doubles final.

Both players were All-Americans in the Southeastern Conference, Kessler for the University of Florida in Gainesville, while Touliatos played for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. They’ve both felt they’ve played well this week.

“I’ve been playing great,” Kessler said in an interview that followed their quarterfinal match. “Returning really well, and serving really well, and I think those are the two main things if you can do well, you feel like you’re playing. You can’t be stopped, so I felt really good.”

Playing for the Gators and in the SEC helped prepare Kessler well for the next level.

“Yeah, we get used to this level,” Kessler said. “The SEC, I mean, it’s the best conference in the country by far, and doubles, and especially in the SEC, is amazing. It helps you for this level.”

Kessler, a native of Calhoun, Ga., located near Chattanooga, Tenn., got interested in tennis through watching his parents play for the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“I kind of grew up watching them,” Kessler said, “and just started playing, loved the game. Just kept going.”

In his collegiate career, Kessler went 65-43 in doubles and 34-21 in singles, being named an All-American in doubles in 2018, along with various awards for sportsmanship and community service. He also made the SEC academic honor roll in 2018.

“I just got done with eligibility,” Kessler said, “so I’m done with tennis at Florida, and All-American, I think I did awesome. I did everything I could, everything I could for the team and more. I wish it wasn’t over.”

Touliatos also felt that he’s played well this week.

“I think I’ve been playing pretty well,” Touliatos said, “been serving very well, been returning very well. And that’s about what you need to do to play tennis pretty well. So, I’ve been focusing on those two things, and it’s been going well so far.”

Touliatos is from Birmingham, Ala., and got interested in tennis through his mother’s side of the family.

“I got involved with tennis because my mom and her parents, her side of the family was big on tennis,” Touliatos said, “so I didn’t start playing until I was probably 11, something like that. And then, kind of fell in love with it, and just quit everything else and started playing.”

Touliatos had an 81-45 record in doubles, along with a 74-57 record in singles. He was a two-time All-American in doubles, and along with his collegiate partner, Timo Stoddar, was ranked as high as fifth in the nation in doubles. Touliatos also enjoyed his college experiences playing for the Volunteers.

“Playing at Tennessee was a blast,” Touliatos said. “It was a dream come true for me. I always grew up wanting to play for something at Tennessee. I got the opportunity and made the most of it. I got to work with some of the best coaches in the country, and it was a blast, and I learned a ton, and now, I’m trying to use that out here. And just keep the momentum going.”

As far as goals and dreams go, the ultimate goal is for both Kessler and Touliatos to make and play on the ATP Tour.

“That’s my ultimate goal; both of ours, is to make it to the Grand Slams, at least,” Kessler said. “Play a couple of big tournaments, and see what we can get from there. Just little by little, and just keep going, and have fun. We both enjoy it, and we both enjoy each other’s company, so it’s pretty nice.”

“Yeah, the ultimate goal is to make it on the ATP Tour,” Touliatos said, “but that’s not something I’m really looking at as a goal, because you can’t really control whether or not you’re playing there. The only thing I can control is how I carry myself up on the court, and how I perform day in and day out. So that’s all I’m focused on, and if I make it, I make it, great, that’d be awesome. And if I don’t, I know I did my best. So, it’s just focus on the day-to-day stuff.”

And both players have loved the atmosphere at the tournament, and have enjoyed their Edwardsville experiences immensely.

“Oh, yeah, it’s awesome,” Kessler said. “It’s probably the best Futures that I’ve seen run. Everyone here’s so nice, so friendly, they get great people to come out and watch. It’s just a great atmosphere, so we want to stay as long as we can.”

Touliatos was in agreement with his partner’s assessment of the tournament and the Edwardsville area as well.

“It’s been great,” Touliatos said. “We’ve had a lot of locals come and watch us play, and watched us play in the Doubles Shootout, and yeah, they’ve been following up with us. They know our names, they’ll come up and say hi, so it’s been a great experience for us. We’re really, really enjoying it.”

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