Camdenton’s Watson and Hultz ready for final show at state tennis tournament

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Camdenton seniors Victoria Watson (left) and Haley Hultz (right).

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there was not exactly a ton of optimism that a full season would even be completed, let alone reaching a state tournament.

But that is exactly what a pair of seniors from Camdenton did this season as Victoria Watson and Haley Hultz punched their tickets to the Class 2 doubles state tournament. The senior duo won a district championship to do it, taking care of business in the individual portion of the district doubles tournament. 

“A lot of hard work and just praying for the best, honestly,” Watson said what it took to reach state. “I think we did not expect to even get this far in the season with quarantine and everything going on. I think we are both super thankful we can say that we did not get pulled out at all this year and were able to stay healthy, making it work and keeping it going.” 

Hard work may have certainly been a factor, but doubles play also takes a little team chemistry and that is exactly what Hultz and Watson developed over the past few years with Hultz playing tennis all four years of her high school career and Watson playing for three. Their friendship not only exists on the court, but off of it as well.

“I think Victoria is super supportive of everything on and off the court. I think we work well together as a team because our chemistry and how long we’ve known each other,” Hultz pointed out. “We are just super supportive of each other and want each other to do the best we can. We don’t really look down on each other for making mistakes because we both make them.” 

Hultz and Watson were part of a Laker team that won the Waynesville Tournament earlier this season, reached the district finals as a team and both seniors were named to the Ozark Conference All-Conference team as well. According to former Camdenton head coach and current assistant Ted Houx, Hultz and Watson are the first Laker girls to qualify for state since Melissa Divincen earned a trip back in 2000.  

“Haley, Victoria and Katelyn McGuire were able to play for two district championships in three years and that is quite an accomplishment considering how strong of a district we are assigned to as a team,” Camdenton coach Kirk Richey said. 

“Haley and Victoria are excited to get the chance to play in the Class 2 state tournament. Coach Houx and I believe the girls are playing their best tennis right now and they are focused on continuing the high level of play in Springfield.” 

Another key to the duo’s success has simply been maintaining a sense of calmness out on the court to go with their hard work and chemistry. For Watson and Hultz, everything comes down to a single point at a time.  

“Coach Richey always says to take everything one point at a time,” Watson remarked. “You just have to stay calm and when we play calm I think that is when we play best. Having fun is the most important thing because if you are all worked up, you do not play as well. Tennis is a lifetime sport so just treat it like that and have fun.” 

Camdenton was scheduled to take on William Chrisman in the first round on Thursday morning from the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield, looking to punch a spot in the state quarterfinals. Time will soon tell if the Lakers can find their way to a top eight finish on the podium and earn a pair of medals and All-State recognition. 

“I would say it is kind of surreal. Coming in sophomore year, I didn’t expect to be at this point but a lot of hard work and then with Haley and our coaches, it just kind of built us to the players we are today,” Watson said. “It is awesome we get to represent them, what we learned and what we can do. We are excited.”

And just because the venue is state, it does not change anything for the way Watson and Hultz are approaching this final show of the season. 

“We are just going to treat it like any other match. We don’t want to get too much in our head, too worked up or too excited,” Watson noted. “Haley has played for four years and this is my third year so this is going to be our last match and we are seniors so just leave everything on the court and give it our best.” 

Regardless of how it plays out, it is not exactly a bad conclusion considering how this season started in the midst of a pandemic.

“We were all joking about our team getting shut down and we were taking everything with a grain of salt,” Hultz stated. “We just had a lot of fun this season and I really want to thank our coaches because they made everything possible and they made everything seem normal in all the abnormalities of this year.”