Victory narrowly eluded Camdenton Monday night.
The Lakers hosted Rolla for an Ozark Conference clash on Senior Night and after securing a 2-1 lead after doubles play, the opponents came back and won four of the five singles matches to escape with a 5-4 win.
It was a tough way to go down as none of those four losses were by more than four sets, but Rolla found a way to get the points it needed.
“Anytime it is a 5-4 match, the kids are out there competing and it can go either way. Rolla had the kids, in their situations, put away some points that we should have,” Camdenton coach Kirk Richey said. “All credit to them, they played a great match.”
Camdenton captured the early advantage and took two of the three doubles matches as the teams of Keaton Meyer and Drew Van Hook, along with Rocky Jennings and Cole Bernhard, won their matches by a score of 8-5 while Clayton Kempf and Aaron Rassel were hit with an 8-2 defeat.
In singles play, Van Hook (No. 2 singles) and Ruark (No. 6 singles) walked away as winners in their final match as Lakers on their home court as the former senior defeated his Bulldog opponent 8-3 while the latter won his match 8-5. Van Hook, the only 4-year player on the team, said it felt good to go out on top on a special night.
“It was pretty surreal. It went way too fast and it is kind of sad knowing this is my last time being on this court and playing for Camdenton High School because I am not going to have an opportunity in the near future to do anything like this again,” Van Hook said of Senior Night.
“It is a pretty good feeling knowing I did not let my team down today. I am kind of bummed we did lose by one point, but I know I tried my best and played my hardest.”
His advice to his returning teammates?
“Watch tennis on TV because I think that is how you get better and get a bucket of tennis balls and work on serves anytime you can for 10 minutes just constantly,” he said.
Richey was certainly proud of the senior’s efforts and noted how much fun it has been to watch him develop.
“It has been great to see Drew grow up and play. I played a lot of tennis with his grandfather and to see him end up where he was, was really neat,” the coach remarked.
Meyer fell 8-5 at the top of the lineup in the No. 1 singles match, Kempf fell 8-4 in No. 3 singles, Jennings took a tough 9-7 defeat at No. 4 singles and Bernhard came up just short in the No. 5 match with an 8-5 loss.
Still, Richey said it was one of the best dual outings he has seen from his team all season and it was a match that just slipped away.
“I am really proud of these guys. I think they left it all out there and we have improved over the season,” the coach said. “It would have been nice to get that one for conference and district seeding, but it was a great match with Rolla.”
But win or lose, the Senior Night festivities continued on as a group of nine seniors in Van Hook, Rassel, Meyer, Kempf, Bernhard, Shane Anway, Malachi Diehl, Paxton Pool and Michael Price were recognized for their contributions. Each senior gave brief speeches to teammates, friends and family in attendance and there was also a little ice cream cake to enjoy.
“As far as leadership goes, those seniors were great. They have a great attitude, first of all,” Richey said. “They get along with everybody and make everyone get along because we have a good time. In their speeches, for them it was not about wins and losses but getting better and for two and a half months they have gotten a lot better. So, I am very proud of them and very happy to have them on the team.”
Richey also noted that he wished he could have them on the team a little longer.
“Those first and second-year seniors that came out did a great job of competing for us. We have a junior varsity team of seniors in Shane and Malachi who went undefeated at 7-0,” Richey noted. “You kick yourself and hope they get kids to come out a little earlier because they have a lot of potential in them.”
Camdenton (1-9) has not been in many situations this season where the team was on the precipice of victory, but Richey is hoping his club can build upon the opportunities that are remaining. After all, nothing is decided until the final point hits the floor in the postseason.
“We have lost a lot of 6-3 matches where we are already down and don’t get that final win to keep it close. Tonight, we did, so it came down to the last two matches and that just shows where they are progressing,” the coach stated. Now, we need to get a little more confidence going into Waynesville on Wednesday and a double with (Springfield) Central and Hillcrest on Thursday afternoon. We have three more matches that conference seeding implications so hopefully we can learn from tonight and take the next step.
“They just have to keep improving daily and stay in points and that is what they’ve been doing so hopefully they’ll get over the edge before long.”
Camdenton will visit Waynesville on Wednesday at 4 p.m.