The Rolla tennis team took part in the Ozark Conference Tournament on Tuesday, May 1. After losing their first match of the day, Rolla bounced back with two straight wins to finish in fifth.
The Bulldogs got out to a tough start, facing off against Glendale to kick off the tournament. Rolla was swept 5-0. The closest doubles match was at number three where Josiah Homan and Jacob Lenox lost 8-4. Rolla then only took one set in singles before the match was over.
After a tough opening match, Rolla faced off against Camdenton in the second round. Pranal Madria and Ethan Walker opened the match with a 6-3 win at number one doubles, before Blake Riedle and Monty Jawad won 6-2 at number two. The Bulldogs then completed the sweep of doubles with a 6-2 win by Joel Schott and Homan.
Rolla then made quick work of Camdenton in singles. Madria won his match at number one 6-0, before Riedle took a 6-3 loss at number two. Walker sealed the team victory at number three with a 6-1 win over Clay Kempf.
After taking down Camdenton, Rolla faced Lebanon in the fifth place match. The Bulldogs kept their momentum going by sweeping the Yellowjackets 6-0. Madria and Jawad opened doubles with a 6-0 win, before Riedle and Walker won 6-1 at number two. Schott and Homan finished doubles with a 6-1 win of their own. Walker and Micah Martin then both pulled out great 7-5 wins in singles, while Schott won 6-0 on their way to a 6-0 team win.
"A very interesting day where the team worked hard to improve and find the results we were hoping for," said head coach Joe Schisler. "Fifth place feels pretty good when you can knock off a seeded team and accomplish your team goals."
The win over Lebanon may end up being more important than giving Rolla a fifth place finish, as it could have implications for District seeding.
"We upset Lebanon who was seeded fourth in the tournament. The significance there is that this should secure the three seed in team Districts and give us a chance to play in the semifinal against Waynesville, rather than Springfield Central the top seed," said Schisler. "In our previous win over Lebanon, they lacked much of their varsity, so seeding was in question. This match included both teams full varsities."
Rolla also had the chance to mix and match their lineup a bit on Tuesday. Coach Schisler liked seeing how his players responded to different doubles parters throughout the day.
"Kids were very mature and flexible, playing in some tight spots they wouldn’t have asked for," said the Rolla head coach. "Their ability to play doubles with a variety of people was a boost for our team today as we swept doubles against Camdenton and Lebanon. Both of those teams took two of three doubles against us in our regular season dual meets. Our top four combined four different ways and won all those matches. We didn’t expect that to happen quite frankly. As a team we played much better tennis and made better decisions."
Rolla had great performances from several players throughout the day. Walker earned All-Conference honors for his play, but coach Schisler saw positive things from all of his players on Tuesday.
"Several individuals also took some nice strides forward too. Madria keeps getting better and won three matches. Walker won four matches and just seemed to find the edge of hitting within himself. He was down 2-5 against Lebanon and rallied to win 7-5," said coach Schisler. "Micah Bolton-Martin also played a great match against Lebanon. He and Walker finished simultaneously to finish that match. Joel Schott also continues to improve and won three matches today with solid results. Josiah Homan also won two matches and pushed Glendale to 4-8 pairing with Jacob Lenox, who is and underappreciated player we lean on at three doubles a lot.
"It was a great team day where so many of our role players did well," continued the Rolla head coach. "Frankly, it was the most we have played like a team all season, and that was probably the biggest difference for us today."
Rolla will be off until Districts next week. The seeds have not officially been announced, so they'll have to wait and see who their first round matchup will be.