With school back in session, the tennis teams at Camdenton and School of the Osage have hit the court in preparation for the upcoming season.
With the graduation of the four of the six varsity players from last year, Coach Kirk Richey has had to look to a new group of players to fill the shoes of the 2012 team.
Junior Finessa Rassell will take up the helm as the team's top players.
"She's gotten a ton better over the summer," Richey said. "She's a smart player."
Rassell played primarily at the number four position last year, and with a year of varsity experience under her belt, she's poised to play more consistent tennis during dual matches. Rassell participated in out-of-state tennis matches and camps, a move that could boost her confidence heading into the season.
Senior Kiana Wood is the only other returning varsity player from 2012. She moves up from the number six slot to a likely spot at number two.
According to Richey, the rest of the lineup is in limbo. Seniors Maria Martin, Lindsey Morice and Grace Bommell will battle for the middle-of-the-lineup slots, while senior Emily Crickard, junior Janelle Blackwell and sophomore Maisy Borden are in competition for the final varsity position.
With a high turnover rate because of a deep team, the Lady Lakers' relative inexperience at the varsity level could present a challenge, but not one beyond the reach of the team, Richey said.
"This year, I'm asking, 'Are we getting better from match to match?'" he said. "And as the season progresses, are individuals getting better from point to point?"
Richey said the team has great chemistry and attitudes, but will focus on getting into the competitive mode as the team's first match approaches.
They open play Aug. 29 at Hillcrest.
Camdenton's team has depth but lacks varsity experience, but the opopsite can be said of Coach Scott Blacksher's team at the School of the Osage.
Four of the six varsity players return from 2012. But while Camdenton has close to 20 players, Osage has half that at ten.
But that doesn't worry Blacksher.
"We'd like to believe we can come away with a winning season," he said. "That's within our reach."
Junior Ana Blacksher — coach Blacksher's daughter — returns at the number one position. Blacksher, in her first year at the top, enjoyed a successful season in 2012, capped off with a singles championship in the perennially tough Waynesville tournament.
"Ana is about the same level as she was last year," Coach Blacksher said. "But hopefully, she'll improve throughout the season."
Numbers four, five and six from one year ago all look to move up in the lineup. Junior Hannah Bashore, senior Mandee Reahr and sophomore Courtney Grasshoff have all benefitted from a year of varsity-level experience and return improved in 2013.
Page 2 of 2 - The rest of the Osage's lineup is up in the air. With the addition of four new players to this year's squad, Blacksher has several possible options to round out the lineup.
"I have a very nice group of girls this year," Blacksher said. "They're very pleasant to work with."