School of Osage tennis players compete in Class 1 state tournament in Springfield on Friday, May 30
At one point during the first round state tennis match between Osage senior Adam Keith and Arcadia Valley's Brian LaValle, Osage coach Scott Blacksher said that Keith would have to be the one to determine how long the defensive battle would last.
Blacksher consulted Keith during a break in action and Keith returned to the aggressive style of play he started with at the beginning of the match. Keith dropped a shot down the line to break to 1-2 in the second set, but the pep talk ultimately didn't translate into a win.
The Osage tennis team's stellar season ended Saturday on the courts at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield. Keith lost to LaValle in the first round of the singles bracket 3-6, 3-6.
The other qualifiers for the Indians, the doubles team of seniors Ryan Curran and Thomas Uhl, also lost their opening round match 2-6, 0-6. The doubles team drew an unlucky match in the first round, facing the eventual two-time state champion team out Westminster Christian Academy.
Curran and Uhl had no answer for the strong service game of the Westminster duo.
The disappointing end to the season for the Indians doesn't diminish the accomplishments of the team, one of the most successful in Blacksher's 25-year history of coaching.
The Indians went a perfect 16-0 in regular season play, dominating the competition and establishing themselves as the best tennis team in south central Missouri. The team was only one of three teams to go undefeated in Class 1.
Along with a perfect season, the Indians captured the team title at the three tournaments they entered — the Camdenton, Waynesville and Osage tournaments. Osage captured a district title for the second year in a row while Keith took the district singles title and Curran/Uhl won the doubles district title.
The unusually weak schedule Osage faced this year that gave them such success eventually became a weakness at the state level. Facing much tougher competition isn't easy to adjust to without practice.
"They [the team] doesn't see that type of play every day," Blacksher said.
Blacksher is retiring after this year, taking with him 25 years worth of coaching memories, including state champion players and teams. But the remarkable 2014 team will stick out in his mind as he passes the torch to a new coach.
"I was blessed with such a good group of kids this year and I'm very proud of them," he said.