Coming Back From COVID-19: Osage boys tennis eager to return to the courts after long absence

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Osage senior Drew Elley.

The “Coming Back From COVID-19” series will focus on spring sports programs at Camdenton, Osage, Eldon, Versailles, Macks Creek and Climax Springs who saw their seasons stripped away due to the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. The series will highlight how these programs handled those tough times and their return to action.

For a new head coach it is always a good sign to have eager players on the roster, ready to get to work. 

That is what Osage boys tennis coach John Baumstark has seen in the early days of spring as his program embarks on a new season. He may have seen the exact same thing a year ago, too, if it were not for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It was very hard when we found out our season was cancelled last year. Our team was very confident and excited to compete,” Baumstark said, looking back on what would have been his first season leading the program. “The biggest lesson I tried to teach my players during this time is never take coming to practice or competing for your school for granted because you never know when it can be taken away from you. 

“It means a lot to finally be back and practicing with the guys. They seem to have a new sense of motivation and excitement for the game, so we are ready to get going.”

The last time the Indians were on the court in 2019, they finished 3-10 and bowed out in the district semifinals to eventual district champion Helias Catholic. The program lost one of their top players in Logan Havner, who graduated, but a trio of veterans are back to lead the program in senior Drew Elley and juniors Mark Pankiv and Chris Boyd. 

“The strength of our team this year will be our depth throughout the program. We have three seniors who have experience in some big matches throughout their careers, but we also have some really talented underclassmen who are challenging and pushing our older guys every day,” Baumstark said of the lineup. 

The coach said a primary focus is just simply knocking off the rust as the program finally gets to compete against other schools for the first time in two years. Some of the players have not picked up a racket since the summer because of involvement in other sports, so repetition and getting in shape were two of the early keys Baumstark set for his players. He feels that should not take long, though.

“I think there is a different feeling coming into this season because everyone is ready to go from the start. Losing last season showed a lot of our guys how much they love the game,” the coach pointed out. “So, coming into the start of practice this season, the energy is great and everyone is ready to get going.”

Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at mlosch@lakesunonline.com or 573-346-2132