The Boonville Lady Pirates tennis team won’t have to worry about the Marshall Owls or Kirksville Tigers anymore in the NCMC.
After battling those two teams each year in the conference, the Lady Pirates said their goodbyes this spring in boys tennis for the Tri-County Conference.
Unfortunately for Boonville, the TCC has no conference in tennis other than School of the Osage.
So what does that mean for the Lady Pirates this fall?
Instead of playing for a conference title, Boonville will only have team districts and individual districts to play for to move on to the postseason.
“We just have to make sure we are prepared for districts,” said Boonville tennis coach Stephanie Green. “I think we are going to be stronger than we were last year. With the returning seniors our level of play has stepped up. We should be more competitive since we have more playing experience so they are already more confident.”
With 23 girls suited out for the 2018 season, the Lady Pirates will definitely have experience on their side with three out of the top six singles players back from last year along with eight seniors.
Boonville will also play a more favorable schedule this fall with three former MRVC teams in Knob Noster, Carrollton and Higginsville.
But after finishing 3-8 overall and 1-5 in the NCMC last year, Green said the goals are to finish over .500 and send players on to the sectional round.
“We would really like to develop our younger players so that they won’t be lacking that experience as they move up in the lineup,” Green said. “I think our experience with our three remaining singles players from last year will make us stronger in the top part of our lineup.  And then our top two doubles team has experience as well so that will contribute to the success of the team. We are also keeping a lot of the teams on our schedule that helped make us more competitive over the years.”
Moving from the NCMC to the Tri-County Conference also means the Lady Pirates go back to their preferred set up in singles and doubles by the Missouri State High School Activities Association. Instead of playing the six singles and six doubles matches in the NCMC, Green said Boonville will now play six singles matches and three doubles matches.
As for singles, Green said senior Brooke Coleman looks to be the next player up after moving from the No. 3 position to No. 1 this fall.
While finishing 4-6 overall in 2017, Green said Coleman has proven to be a leader on and off the court. “Brooke is a competitor,” Green said. “She is smart, coachable and she is just consistent with her shots which makes her hard to beat.”
Senior Olivia Browning also hopes to make a statement this fall. After playing No. 5 singles last year and finishing 3-7 overall, Green said Browning’s strength lies in her power. “Olivia is also a leader and very athletic,” Green said. “The thing that I like about her is that she is an aggressive player on the court and won’t back down from anyone.”
Junior Abbie Grizzle also brings experience to the court this season. While playing No. 2 singles last year, Green said Grizzle is the perfect fit at the No. 3 spot. “Abbie really works hard,” Green said. “Her strokes and ball placement has developed a lot and she likes the ground stroke game but is starting to get a good transition game as well.”
With senior Cidney Dorkins moving up to the No. 4 spot, Green said she is another pretty aggressive player that likes to move in to the net. “Cidney is definitely a competitor,” Green said. “I didn’t get to see her play much last year because she was injured.”
The final two spots in the lineup will consist of two seniors in Bailey Brimer and Dianna Koa. While playing JV doubles last year, Brimer will come in at the No. 5 position and has already become more consistent in her game. “Bailey is a hard worker and she has really come a long way to where she started,” Green said. “She is also another one of our team leaders.”
As for Koa, Green said she played a little bit at No. 6 last year. “Dianna was mostly doubles last year,” Green said. Dianna spent a lot of time during the off-season working on strokes but has also developed a power game. I am more confident in singles this year. I feel like the girls who have experience are going to raise the confidence for the rest of the team and the top three who haven’t had singles experience at least have been in the top eight mix the last couple of years.”
Green will also return some experience in doubles, especially at the No. 1 and 2 positions.
While finishing 10-8 last year at No. 2 doubles, the team of Coleman and Browning are back looking to improve on that record this fall.
Green said Coleman and Browning are a fairly balanced team. “Brooke provides some consistency while Olivia has a more aggressive game so that makes a good balance,” Green said. “I think they can capitalize on that success they had last year.”
The No. 2 doubles team of Brimer and Koa also return with playing experience from last year. While finishing 2-3 at the No. 4 position in 2017, Green said Brimer and Koa seemed to mesh together last year and hopes that experience pays off for them this fall.
“Bailey is even keeled while Dianna is a little more aggressive,” Green said.
Rounding out the final spot in doubles this fall is Grizzle and Dorkins. Green said although the duo has never played together before, they have good balance with Grizzle having good command of her shots while Dorkins likes to come to the net.
“I think because we have a lot of experience in doubles we should be strong,” Green said.
Other players who could see some playing time this fall in doubles are seniors Hannah Loesing and Leila Green and juniors Jessica Lammers and Danielle Dillon.
Green said all four girls will be instrumental in helping the top six get better. “These four girls have really made progress and look much stronger this year,” Green said. “I like our doubles team this year because we have a lot of experience returning and should be strong. As a coach I would like to have a little more time with the girls but I think they are ready to play.”