Camdenton girls tennis continues on roll with win over Osage

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Camdenton senior Victoria Watson returns the ball in a singles match against Osage's Emma Koeppen on Monday, September 21, in Osage Beach. Watson was able to win the match 8-3.

In an uncertain era during the age of COVID-19, Camdenton has shown that it helps to have some continuity and experience on the tennis courts.

The Lakers, winners of the Waynesville Tournament, have won five of their last seven matches including a 7-2 win at Lake area neighbor Osage on Monday afternoon. A group of veteran seniors have led the way for Camdenton in 2020 and it was on full display once again in a showdown with the Indians.

“We all played varsity last year so we were returners and we played the same spots, pretty much. Some of us moved up just one spot so we are used to playing these spots and it made us better,” Camdenton senior Sophina Ernst said of the team’s lineup. “We could work together because we’ve been playing together, most of us, since freshman year.”

Ernst says the bond has been strong as well with the newcomers and Lakers got started leading 2-1 after the trio of doubles matches. Victoria Watson and Kaitlyn Bergstrom picked up an 8-4 win over Osage’s Marley Corpe and Megan Smithson and the team of Eliana Borbe and Katelyn McGuire secured an 8-2 win over Osage’s Madison Butt and Glory Nimmo. The Indians were able to pick up a win in the top doubles match, though, as Emma Koeppen and Lily Davis outlasted Camdenton’s Haley Hultz and Watson in an 8-7 tiebreaker.

“That was a nice match for both teams and to watch Lily, our senior, an experienced player, take charge like that and really compete all night long, her and Emma both played great and Lily came up with a big win in singles,” Osage coach Ann Gulshen stated. “Just playing really good tennis and all the things we’ve had to overcome like everyone else with the illnesses and quarantines and having small numbers, everyone else has had to step up so proud of our kids.”

Watson took some time to commend the play of her opponents on the other side of the net as well.

“They are both great players, no doubt about that,” the senior said of the doubles match with Koeppen and Davis. “I think playing my first tiebreaker ever from three years of tennis, you get a little nervous but Osage came on top and they are both great players so learned from that moving forward now.”

Camdenton was able to continue its momentum in singles play as Watson earned an 8-3 win over Koeppen, Bergstrom captured an 8-3 win over Corpe, Borbe was an 8-1 winner over Smithson, McGuire defeated Butt 8-0 and Ernst claimed an 8-2 win over Nimmo. Davis earned an 8-3 win over Hultz to secure one more point for Osage.

“I thought our kids really performed fantastic and I could not be more proud of them. They battled and were in every match,” Gulshen stated. “We had nice, long points and our kids are really young and inexperienced and have improved so much this year. This was a good test for us and a fun match to watch.”

Osage is currently 3-3 on the season and with a younger lineup than years past with some freshmen and sophomores in the lineup, Gulshen expects the team to continue to grow and improve.

“You can see it happening on the court as they are playing. They get better every match and that is what we are here for,” the coach noted. “I’m really proud of both teams, I thought they played really well tonight.”

And both teams will be grateful for every opportunity they have remaining in the midst of uncertain times during the pandemic.

Davis, who finished second in singles play at the Osage Tournament on Saturday before coming away with a pair of wins on Monday, is one of those players soaking up experience every time she steps on the court in her final season with the Indians.

“Our coaches this year have really taught us to be persistent, especially during the pandemic. We are so appreciative that we even get a season so we have to make the most of it,” the senior said.

“It is huge, especially because we were not sure we were even going to have a season and our season could still get cut short. It is great we are having so many matches and are able to play.”

Camdenton was actually one of four events the Indians have this week and the team was scheduled to visit Lebanon on Tuesday before visiting Capital City on Thursday and playing in the Smith-Cotton Classic in Sedalia on Friday. Koeppen, another senior for the Indians, echoed the sentiments of her teammate and she has been thankful for the opportunity to learn the sport the past four years with this program.

“I just think it is great we have this opportunity during changing times. The world is changing a lot and to get the opportunity to do something we have been doing for years, that little bit of consistency makes the change easier,” she said.

Camdenton improved to 5-3 overall and remains 4-1 in the Ozark Conference. The Lakers have a trip to conference newcomer Bolivar scheduled for Thursday at 4:30 p.m. before the team wraps up the week with a Saturday battle at Lebanon, starting at 9 a.m.

For Watson, the final campaign as a Laker has been bittersweet. She is grateful the team has been able to play, but also knows the season will quickly wind down in the next few weeks.

“We are all super excited we were able to have a season and we all stayed really healthy, but it is also kind of sad because we are seniors and it is all coming to an end in the next three weeks,” Watson said. “Very thankful I got to play with all the girls this year.”

Moving forward, Bergstrom said the continuity the team has developed with its experience will be the key as the rest of the season unfolds.

“I think as long as we all stick together, working as a team, and continue to support each other through these last couple of matches, we are honestly going to pull through on top,” the senior said. “I’m excited to do it with these girls, so we are ready.”

Osage senior Lily Davis looks to return a serve in the top singles match against Camdenton's Haley Hultz on Monday, September 21, in Osage Beach. Davis won the singles match 8-3 and battled with senior teammate Emma Koeppen to capture an 9-7 tiebreaker win in the top doubles match.