Hutzler excited about the future of the program

School of the Osage fought to keep its season alive in the singles and doubles district tournament at Helias on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Indians, other schools brought plenty of fight as well in a tournament where only the top two singles and doubles teams would advance.

Springfield Catholic’s Anna Rader and Casey Lee advanced in singles play and the Helias doubles duo of Abby Dowden and Catherine Conley along with Springfield Catholic’s Erin Jarvis and Cecillia Bailey qualified in doubles, ending Osage’s season.

However, with five returners coming back next year, the Indians took some risks and switched things up. Kylie Misenheimer and Eliza Koeppen, who have both represented the Indian in doubles play in the past, went to battle in singles action while the duo of Natalie Brick and Elise Davis teamed up for the first time in doubles and the duo of Maddie Amsinger and Lily Davis were playing their first and only year together.

“Saturday was a great day for tennis with the weather being perfect and Helias hosting on their brand new eight-court tennis complex,” Osage coach Brandy Hutzler remarked. “Saturday was also a day of risks and I am so proud of my girls for being risk takers and trying out new strategies. We are a young team and they knew it was not their last year at districts so we switched it up.”

Koeppen had been Osage’s No. 1 player all season and put up a fight against Richland, but ultimately fell in a 7-6 tiebreaker in the first set and 6-3 in the next set. Hutzler noted that as the No. 1 player, Koeppen usually had the toughest draw every night and went out playing her best match of the season.

“She played a 2-hour match,” the coach pointed out. “Eliza will be working on stamina in the offseason and I’m excited to see her tennis game next year. She has done a great job of getting confident and consistent with her skill level and will be a very strong senior next year.”

Misenheimer went up against a familiar foe in Bolivar’s Alexis Barry as the two have taken tennis lessons together in the past. Unfortunately, Barry would win this round with a two-set win by final scores of 6-1 and 6-3.

“Kylie was nervous in the first set. However, in the second set she found her game and had awesome serves that were hard to return,” Hutzler stated. “She also hit baseline ground strokes that were her strongest yet and her play was incredible. Kylie is only a sophomore and I’m very excited to see what her future holds for tennis once she gains confidence in her strokes.”

The doubles duo of Brick and Davis found some early success with a win over Richland by scores of 6-2 twice, but in the second round they would fall to the eventual district champion from Helias.

“Natalie and Elise have built up chemistry during practice and compliment each other very well with their strengths. Both players had very solid serves,” Hutzler noted. “Elise is unstoppable at the net and Natalie has a consistent ground stroke that she always gets back over... They were both shocked and excited to see how well they played together and their play on Saturday sparked a fire that has them motivated to practice during the offseason and potentially be an unstoppable doubles team next year. Being only sophomores, they also have a promising tennis future.”

The senior Amsinger and the other Davis, who is a freshman, teamed up on Saturday and fell to their Richland foes by final scores of 6-4 and 6-3.

“They played well and very focused,” Hutzler said. “This was their first season playing together and the first season of varsity play for both girls so they had a great season of tennis and learned a lot. I’m excited to see what Lily will bring to the team for her sophomore year.”

The 2017 campaign may be over, but the future is certainly looking bright returning five out of six veterans who compiled a regular season record of 8-3. The Indians were able to schedule five more matches and one more tournament than 2016 and Hutzler said she is excited about the direction of the program.

“I’m so impressed with the skills my players possess. It seems like the more we compete, we build up more confidence and, in turn, our true tennis skills shine through during match play,” the coach stated. “Returning five varsity players is a very exciting thing and it makes it easier when we can be a unified team, have the same match play experience and already know the ropes of high school tennis.”