The Lakers hosted Father Tolton in the season opener on Wednesday afternoon and after graduating nine seniors from last year's squad the team did not exactly look very unexperienced in a 6-3 win over the Trailblazers.
New faces, few days of practice due to unfriendly weather, no problem for Camdenton.
The Lakers hosted Father Tolton in the season opener on Wednesday afternoon and after graduating nine seniors from last year’s squad the team did not exactly look very unexperienced in a 6-3 win over the Trailblazers.
“We’ve only had about two rounds of challenges,” Camdenton coach Kirk Richey said referring to a time in practice where players take on each other to help determine the lineup. “To get out and play, I did not know what to expect tonight but it was nice to get a good home win to start against a good program like Tolton.”
After a 5-12 outing in 2018 that included an 8-1 loss to Tolton and an eventual seventh place finish in the Ozark Conference, Richey noted that the focus on Wednesday was to eliminate the unforced errors that led to the season-opening loss at the hands of the Trailblazers a year ago. To the credit of the young Laker lineup, his players were mostly able to do just that.
“They had a veteran crew last year and are kind of like us rebuilding a little bit with their squad, but last year I can remember being up at Cosmo Park and we were making one unforced error after another,” he said. “We did not make them hit shots or play points out. We ended the point usually by hitting it in the net or off the fence. So tonight, what we talked about before the match was definitely getting the next shot in and making them beat us by hitting ‘Winners’ or aces from the baseline on their serves.”
Camdenton set the right tone in doubles play winning two of the three matches as Rocky Jennings and Noah Morgan were 8-5 winners while Coleman Darnall and Ethan McDaniel picked up an 8-3 victory. Even the lone defeat was not easily earned for Tolton as Reese Esqueda and Nick Kroll played the Trailblazers to an 8-6 match.
“There were some times in the middle of the doubles matches where we got ahead of ourselves a little bit and made the unforced error, but we are a young crew,” Richey pointed out. “There is not anyone that is used to playing at the top of the lineup this year so it was good to be able to battle through that.”
Well, one player who got off to a fairly nice start at the top of the lineup was Rocky Jennings who battled to an 8-6 win in the top singles match.
“It was nice finally getting to play. I was really nervous at first, not hitting good shots, and then I just got comfortable with it, everything started falling in and I started to play like my usual self,” Jennings remarked on Wednesday. “It was really nice to be able to get out. It is a nice day, no sun and it is cloudy and not too cold or windy.”
And picking up that first win in his first go at the top of the lineup was really important to Jennings as well.
“It really kicked off my season right there to show how good I can be and I wanted to show everyone else how good I am by winning so it was a really key game for me,” he stated.
His teammates were fairly successful in their endeavors as well. Noah Morgan swept his opponent 8-0 in the No. 2 match, Dornall won the No. 5 match 8-6 and McDaniel won the sixth spot 8-5. Meanwhile, No. 3 Esqueda and No. 4 Kroll both came up short in 8-2 defeats.
“We’ve only one twice now for my four years so it is kind of a big thing to win this because I have not won really against these people since I started so it is really nice to win,” Morgan said after his sweep in singles play.
Camdenton (1-0) was scheduled to visit Jefferson City on Thursday and will have a little time off before returning the courts on April 2 to host rival Lebanon at 4 p.m.
“Jeff City tomorrow will be a new experience for us, first road trip and playing a stellar program like they have,” Richey said of the Jays on Wednesday. “Rocky, especially at number one and being his first year at number one, it will be a big-time learning experience for him tomorrow to help us later on in the Ozark Conference and the tournament. We always try to say we’ll take one night at a time to be playing our best tennis towards the end of the season.
“So, we’ll see what we can do tomorrow, use this learning experience and then come back and get a lot of challenges in Friday through next Friday. We have six days where we can get on the court and start to improve again.”
It was a good start to the year and whatever 2019 has in store, Jennings is optimistic about the matches ahead.
“I think this season we’ll do well. We have a really good team, everyone is pretty confident and everyone likes each other so it is a whole bunch of teammate chemistry,” he posited. “I work well with my doubles partner.”
The feeling was mutual for Morgan.
“As we kept continuing our tennis, we’ve become closer friends and now that we are doubles partners, we’ve definitely become that close doubles chemistry… and we’re connected.”