For the first match of the season, Camdenton showed plenty of fight.

The Lakers welcomed rival Lebanon for a Highway 5 showdown in the home and season opener Monday night and took the visiting Yellowjackets down to the wire in a 5-4 loss. Trailing 2-1 after doubles competition, the Lakers came storming back in singles play and made the contest come down to the final match.

“For it to be our first match as compared to their fifth, even Coach (Ron) Crowell (Lebanon) said, ‘Wow man, I’m impressed with how you guys competed being the first match and getting through those jitters.’ Lebanon is a good team and I think they have won three or four matches already,” Camdenton coach Kirk Richey said. “So I was really proud of our effort tonight and the girls did a good job.”

Crowell and Richey have been coaching against each other for about 20 years and Richey said they are among the older guys in the Ozark Conference these days, but it is a match they always look forward to.

“We have such a great camaraderie with Lebanon. We get along, everybody on the tennis courts respects each other and Coach Crowell and I have had a great relationship so it is good to start with somebody that you like to play against,” Richey said.

The contest began with doubles action where Camdenton juniors Macie Abell and Darby Roam picked up the lone win in an 8-6 decision of the No. 3 doubles match. Senior Coley Rezabek and junior Hannah Robinson lost the No. 1 doubles match 8-2 and seniors Tori Risner and Faith Bowen dropped the No. 2 doubles match 8-6, but the Lakers were far from finished.

Rezabek began the comeback bid with an 8-6 win in No. 1 singles while Abell (No. 5) and Roam (No. 6) picked up victories by the same margin. The Lakers needed just one more set to claim victory, but the Yellowjackets were able to pull through with three wins by final scores of 8-4 and 8-3 twice.

“Just because Faith and Tori were the last ones out on the court does not mean they had the last losses for us,” Richey stated. “That’s not on them. That is just because of court availability. There were four other girls out there that lost their matches too.

“Faith, especially, is a senior and I’ve tried to kind of pump her up because she is a good player. She is a heck of a player when she has confidence so that is not on those last girls, but they certainly feel the pressure. It is a learning experience for them down the road,” he added.

Although the first match resulted in a loss, Richey noted that the most obvious difference this year is how competitive the Lakers were after a season in which the team finished 2-12 in the regular season and 6th in the conference.

“We just did not compete real well with these same girls. We have not lost a whole lot so these girls come back out in year No. 2 of varsity and know how to compete,” the coach pointed out. “Those first four or five games in each of those matches were shaky at best and they fought through that and never gave up.”

One of those players who did not give up was Rezabek as she shook off the early doubles loss and took care of business in singles play. The senior has come a long way in a short amount of time, starting to play tennis seriously in June and rising through the ranks to the No. 1 spot.

“It was my first tennis match ever so you kind of have those first game ‘nerves’ or whatever and I was kind of jittery and did not know what to expect,” said Rezabek who is also playing golf for the Lakers this fall. “I could not really be consistent with my shot, but I thought my serve was good in the doubles. Then, after I kind of calmed down in the doubles and just kind of relaxed, I tried to play my game in the singles and found my shot and rhythm.”

Rezabek started hitting the courts in June where she and her father ran through a couple of hours of drills two to three nights a week.

“At the beginning of the summer I was not very good at all,” Rezabek recalled. “We did that all summer long and by the end of the summer I guess I got good enough to be in the No. 1 spot respectively. I came in hoping I’d be top 20 and did not really know what to expect, but I put in time after practice and put in that extra hour... wanting to get better every day.”

She also got a little help from her sister Bailey, a 2016 Camdenton graduate, who currently plays basketball for Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar.

“My sister was not very into tennis either and so I was always beating her pretty badly,” Rezabek said with a smile. “Then she got better and would always be bugging me to go to the courts. Bailey helps me out a lot because between my dad and Bailey, they both have different playing styles so I think it helps when I come out here too because you never know what you are going to get.”

Richey, for one, was certainly impressed.

“That is her first varsity tennis match and she is playing against a great senior down there at Lebanon who has had a lot of success,” the coach noted. “She lost 8-2 (doubles) and came out and wanted to prove a point that, ‘Hey I belong’ and she did. She had a great match.”

Confidence will be the biggest key going forward for the Lakers as they embark on a new season.

“If they just come out and build on this confidence and remember what it takes to win and stay in points, they’ll be fine in the long run” Richey pointed out. “We want to be playing our best tennis come conference and districts and that is what we are really looking for this year.”

That confidence also goes right back to the coaching staff.

“I now know that it is going to take a lot of work and a lot of practice to get where I need to be to keep being successful down the road,” Rezabek said. “But I’m excited and I have confidence in Coach Richey and Coach (Ted) Houx that they will get us there. It is going to be an exciting year.”

Camdenton (0-1) was scheduled to visit Bolivar on Tuesday night and will host Waynesville on Thursday at 4 p.m.

For the first match of the season, Camdenton showed plenty of fight.

The Lakers welcomed rival Lebanon for a Highway 5 showdown in the home and season opener Monday night and took the visiting Yellowjackets down to the wire in a 5-4 loss. Trailing 2-1 after doubles competition, the Lakers came storming back in singles play and made the contest come down to the final match.

“For it to be our first match as compared to their fifth, even Coach (Ron) Crowell (Lebanon) said, ‘Wow man, I’m impressed with how you guys competed being the first match and getting through those jitters.’ Lebanon is a good team and I think they have won three or four matches already,” Camdenton coach Kirk Richey said. “So I was really proud of our effort tonight and the girls did a good job.”

Crowell and Richey have been coaching against each other for about 20 years and Richey said they are among the older guys in the Ozark Conference these days, but it is a match they always look forward to.

“We have such a great camaraderie with Lebanon. We get along, everybody on the tennis courts respects each other and Coach Crowell and I have had a great relationship so it is good to start with somebody that you like to play against,” Richey said.

The contest began with doubles action where Camdenton juniors Macie Abell and Darby Roam picked up the lone win in an 8-6 decision of the No. 3 doubles match. Senior Coley Rezabek and junior Hannah Robinson lost the No. 1 doubles match 8-2 and seniors Tori Risner and Faith Bowen dropped the No. 2 doubles match 8-6, but the Lakers were far from finished.

Rezabek began the comeback bid with an 8-6 win in No. 1 singles while Abell (No. 5) and Roam (No. 6) picked up victories by the same margin. The Lakers needed just one more set to claim victory, but the Yellowjackets were able to pull through with three wins by final scores of 8-4 and 8-3 twice.

“Just because Faith and Tori were the last ones out on the court does not mean they had the last losses for us,” Richey stated. “That’s not on them. That is just because of court availability. There were four other girls out there that lost their matches too.

“Faith, especially, is a senior and I’ve tried to kind of pump her up because she is a good player. She is a heck of a player when she has confidence so that is not on those last girls, but they certainly feel the pressure. It is a learning experience for them down the road,” he added.

Although the first match resulted in a loss, Richey noted that the most obvious difference this year is how competitive the Lakers were after a season in which the team finished 2-12 in the regular season and 6th in the conference.

“We just did not compete real well with these same girls. We have not lost a whole lot so these girls come back out in year No. 2 of varsity and know how to compete,” the coach pointed out. “Those first four or five games in each of those matches were shaky at best and they fought through that and never gave up.”

One of those players who did not give up was Rezabek as she shook off the early doubles loss and took care of business in singles play. The senior has come a long way in a short amount of time, starting to play tennis seriously in June and rising through the ranks to the No. 1 spot.

“It was my first tennis match ever so you kind of have those first game ‘nerves’ or whatever and I was kind of jittery and did not know what to expect,” said Rezabek who is also playing golf for the Lakers this fall. “I could not really be consistent with my shot, but I thought my serve was good in the doubles. Then, after I kind of calmed down in the doubles and just kind of relaxed, I tried to play my game in the singles and found my shot and rhythm.”

Rezabek started hitting the courts in June where she and her father ran through a couple of hours of drills two to three nights a week.

“At the beginning of the summer I was not very good at all,” Rezabek recalled. “We did that all summer long and by the end of the summer I guess I got good enough to be in the No. 1 spot respectively. I came in hoping I’d be top 20 and did not really know what to expect, but I put in time after practice and put in that extra hour... wanting to get better every day.”

She also got a little help from her sister Bailey, a 2016 Camdenton graduate, who currently plays basketball for Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar.

“My sister was not very into tennis either and so I was always beating her pretty badly,” Rezabek said with a smile. “Then she got better and would always be bugging me to go to the courts. Bailey helps me out a lot because between my dad and Bailey, they both have different playing styles so I think it helps when I come out here too because you never know what you are going to get.”

Richey, for one, was certainly impressed.

“That is her first varsity tennis match and she is playing against a great senior down there at Lebanon who has had a lot of success,” the coach noted. “She lost 8-2 (doubles) and came out and wanted to prove a point that, ‘Hey I belong’ and she did. She had a great match.”

Confidence will be the biggest key going forward for the Lakers as they embark on a new season.

“If they just come out and build on this confidence and remember what it takes to win and stay in points, they’ll be fine in the long run” Richey pointed out. “We want to be playing our best tennis come conference and districts and that is what we are really looking for this year.”

That confidence also goes right back to the coaching staff.

“I now know that it is going to take a lot of work and a lot of practice to get where I need to be to keep being successful down the road,” Rezabek said. “But I’m excited and I have confidence in Coach Richey and Coach (Ted) Houx that they will get us there. It is going to be an exciting year.”

Camdenton (0-1) was scheduled to visit Bolivar on Tuesday night and will host Waynesville on Thursday at 4 p.m.