The Boonville Pirates tennis team fell one match short of reaching the Final Four in 2017 under head coach Stephanie Green.
While losing to Priory in the quarterfinals 5-0, the Pirate netters still managed to post their best season in the history of the program while finishing 12-2 overall and 7-1 in the North Central Missouri Conference.
But that was last year. With 16 players suited up for the 2018 season, 12 of which are returning lettermen, Green said the Pirates want to capitalize on the success they had last year and take it one step farther.
“We were very solid 1-10 last year and that helped us,” Green said. “This year we are looking to continue at what we started last year and build off that success. We are also looking to win the conference in our final season in the NCMC and win districts again. And then lastly, we want to send our individuals into postseason play and send our team to sectionals again.”
If everything goes well between now and May, the Pirates just might be in a position to accomplish that feat with three of the top six players back from last year.
But make no mistake, Boonville first has to get through a rigourous conference schedule, which includeds the likes of Marshall and Kirksville just to name a few.
However after beating the Owls for the first time in the history of the program last year, Green said the team feels like they can take that next step and actually win the NCMC title this year.
“I think we are more mentally prepared this year after having that success,” Green said. “The boys think they are a better team than last year, and to me they seemed a little more focused. As for the conference, everybody pretty much lost their top lineup. Marshall I’m sure will be up there as well as Kirksville. However, I feel we should be at the top.”
If the early prognostications are true, Boonville will have to lean on the five seniors on the team this season. Green said with the experience the seniors have and the depth, the 4-5-6 players could easily be a 1-2-3 on other teams. “The team as a whole has a good work ethic and then I think they are mentally tough across the board,” Green said. “They also have a level of toughness this year. However, we are not as deep as we were last year in terms of numbers but I like that because we are not as crowded on the courts.”
As for the goals of the team this spring, Green said the players definitely want to go as far as they did last year, especially on the individual side. “The boys also want to work with the younger players to continue the legacy that they have left,” Green said.
The way it stacks right now, Francesco Bona will be the new No. 1 this season for the Pirates. A foreign exchange student from Italy, Green said Bona comes in with fantastic strokes. “His footwork is almost flawless,” Green said. “He has a huge arsenal of tools and brings the level of play up for everybody. I am expecting for him to qualify for state if he plays consistently like he has in the first two weeks of practice.”
The bar has also been set high at the No. 2 position as senior Kyle Chrisman moves up from the No. 6 position, where he finished 21-1 last year.
Green said Chrisman’s work ethic is amazing. “He came out as a junior last year and was very intimidating on the court because of his size,” Green said. “His strokes are solid and consistent but he is also a heavy hitter and is smart on the court.”
Senior Luke Rehagen also moved up in the ranks this season, going from No. 4 to No. 3. While finishing 9-6 overall in 2017 and fourth at conference, Green said Rehagan is much more confident. “This is his third year playing in the top six,” Green said. “He knows how to play this game and he works at it. Luke has also improved on his consistency and his shot selection and is seeing the court better.”
Taking over Rehagen’s spot at the No. 4 position this season is senior Gabe Rumbaoa. While playing No. 5 last year, Rumbaoa also finished 9-6 and second in the NCMC Tournament.
“Gabe has grown tremendously as a player,” Green said. “His strokes are more consistent and he is another player that is intimidating because of his size and the pace he hits the ball. Gabe’s leadership is key to our success this season. He knows how to compete so that brings up everybody as well.”
Sophomore Josh Chrisman, who was the No. 7 players for the Pirates last year, will move up to the No. 5 position this season. While playing mostly doubles last year with Quin Gentry, Green said Chrisman is a superb athlete physically and mentally. “Josh plays just as well against Bona as he does with his brother,” Green said. “He is just that competitive. He is also consistent and doesn’t make a lot of errors.”
As for Gentry at the No. 6 position, Green said the sophomore netter did a lot of work with the older players, which only helped him get better. “Quin’s footwork is better and he is making better shot selections,” Green said. “He is also more consistent and more confident this spring. I think as a whole we are going to be strong in singles. We are solid all the way up and down the lineup. We are more experienced overall than last year’s singles team.”
With most of the players in singles doubling back in doubles, there is no reason why the Pirates can’t be as strong in the top six positions this season as well.
With Bona and Rehagan at the No. 1 position for Boonville, Green said the duo already has a relationship from soccer in the fall so that will help with their communication on the court.
“Luke has had a new partner every year since his freshmen year,” Green said. “With him and Bona, they cover the court well together and have meshed well.”
Kyle Chrisman and Rumbaoa also look to pick up where they left off last year after finishing 11-1 at the No. 3 position.
While Chrisman and Rumbaoa are both big ball hitters, Green said the duo also communicates well together on the court and have a lot of confidence from last year. “Their only loss was to Priory in the quarterfinals,” Green said, “so I would say they have some unfinished business.”
Josh Chrisman and Gentry also finished with a winning season in 2017 at 6-2 overall. While playing No. 4 doubles, Green said Chrisman and Gentry have spent a lot of time with the varsity players, which in-turn has brought their game up.
“Josh and Quin blend well together,” Green said. “But the biggest thing is that they have also learned a lot on strategy.”
At the No. 4 position in doubles, Green will look to Will Rehagen and Andrew Pfefferman. While both players have some experience, Green said the two also balances each other out physically and mentally on the court. “They just have a little work to do to get their chemistry more solid,” Green said.
Cracking the lineup this season at the No. 5 position are junior Landon Weaver and sophomore Aaron Witting. Although Witting didn’t play last year, Green said the duo has meshed very well together. “Aaron has good footwork while Landon is very strong,” Green said. “They improve every day and work with the top six so that will bring their game up.”
As for the No. 6 position in doubles, Green will look to a pair of juniors in Lucas Ziegelbein and Dalton Pannell. Green said Ziegelbein has come a long, long way. “Lucas played some of the top players in singles so I have been very impressed with him,” Green said. “I feel very confident with our doubles teams. I think they are stronger than last year as a whole. They just have more experience than last year and really matched themselves up without me having to make any decisions about it.”
Boonville’s tennis team will open at home on Monday, March 19th against Osage.
Green said the Indians are usually tough and return their No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 from last year.