Mother Nature finally gave up on winter, giving the Camdenton Lakers tennis team the opportunity to complete their first match of the season Tuesday, two weeks after the scheduled start of the season.
The delayed season didn't worry Camdenton coach Kirk Richey.
"If anything, we'll be fresh," Richey said. "This will be a good opener for us."
The extra two weeks of practice paid off, as the Lakers defeated rival and previously undefeated Lebanon 5-4 in a closely-matched contest.
Sporting new uniforms and playing for a larger-than-normal crowd of spectators, Lakers doubles teams took to the courts first against the Yellowjackets. Six Lakers play on the varsity team, first as pairs for doubles matches, then individually in singles matches, making a varsity contest nine matches.
On beginning doubles play, a tough battle formed in the number one doubles match. The Lakers' overall number one player, standout senior French foreign exchange student Luc Ginoux paired with senior number four player Theo Bushnell in the match that often featured long rallies.
But it was Ginoux's tricky serve that undid Lebanon's defense throughout the match, first tying the match at 3-3, then again and 7-7. The pair went on to win the nail-biter 9-7.
The number two doubles team of seniors Connor Burton and Aric Osborn had an easier time defeating their Lebanon opponents, Burton finishing the match with a smash at the net to win 8-3. The number three doubles team of Seth Hamilton and Ryan Elliott dropped their match 4-8.
In singles play, Ginoux, number two Burton and number five Hamilton won their matches 8-2, 8-6 and 8-3 respectively. Although losing their matches, number three Osborn, number four Bushnell and number six Elliott kept their matches competitive by scores of 6-8, 3-8 and 6-8 respectively.
Richey described the Lakers' first full match of the season as a "measuring stick" for the rest of the season and expressed optimism at the growth returning players displayed.
"It takes them a while to get their feet under them," Richey said. "But it's a whole new year."
The improvement of the returning varsity players, coupled with the longtime experience and solid technique of Ginoux position Camdenton to be competitive in a perennially tough conference.
Tuesday's victory is a prelude to a busy week for the team. The Laker tournament — the first ever tournament hosted by Camdenton — will be held on Thursday and will notch three dual matches in one day. The team will conclude the week by finishing a dual match against Waynesville Friday that was delayed due to wintry weather in March.
Camdenton JV lost 5-8 in the matchup.