Boonville Lady Pirates tennis team coach Melissa Harvey had one word to describe the 2019 season: hopeful.
With 20 girls suited out for the 2019 season and 12 returning letterwinners, Harvey has a foundation to build from not just this year but for years to come.
“The girls have worked very hard to gain more strength, agility and endurance,” Harvey said. “We are hoping this hard work will pay off when we start playing matches.”
After a 1-7 finish in 2018, Harvey believes the key to the season is going to be movement. She said the girls are already working hard to be more prepared for the ball and quicker with their movement on the court. Another key, she said, is the split step. “The split step consists of a jump where they split their legs and land on their toes,” Harvey said. “they do this as their opponent makes contact with the ball to load their legs for movement towards the hit ball. The split step has greatly improved our timing and readiness.”
Since the Lady Pirates have no conference in tennis and play only Osage from the Tri-County Conference, Harvey said the goal this year is to be stronger as a team, as well as individually. She said the girls would also like to improve their overall team match record throughout the season.
As for the strengths of the team this season, Harvey said the girls are willing to go the extra mile to better themselves as players.
“We’ve been working on agility drills, stairs and killers,” Harvey said. “The girls have been pushing themselves hard through these drills each time. The team also has experience; all of the varsity girls have at least two years of experience on the courts. Our top six girls have played before and are working on fine-tuning their strokes and strategies.”
However with just one starter back from last year (senior Abbie Grizzle), Harvey said it’s important that the girls get repitition and work hard during their practices and conditioning exercises, agility drills, and overall work on the courts.
“We have some habits that we need to make some adjustments to,” Harvey said. “Breaking these habits has been proven to be tough. The repitition and time that it takes to break these habits will continue to be a challenge for us as we start matches soon. Getting back into shape since last season has also been an obstacle as well, but the girls are working extremely hard to improve this as efficiently and quickly as possible.”
The motto for this year’s team-”Look what you can do when you follow through”-also applies to aspects in their daily lives. She said following through is an important concept in the game of tennis. Harvey added that a follow through in tennis has the ability to make or break a shot.
As for the top six players in singles this season for Boonville, Harvey said senior Abbie Grizzle will return for her fourth season. Along with having the experience on varsity at No. 3 last year, Harvey said Grizzle also knows how to maneuver the ball around the court. “Her serve has greatly improved,” Harvey said.
Harvey will also have experience returning at the No. 2 position in freshman Emma Neidig. Harvey said Neidig is a transfer from Blue Springs.
“Emma has played tennis on and off for six years now,” Harvey said. “She is a strong player who is very consistent with her strokes.”
At the No. 3 position, senior Kali Corbitt has also moved up in the lineup since her freshman season. In her third season for the Lady Pirates, Harvey said Corbitt is ambitious and takes initiative on and off the court.
Senior Jessica Lammers will also return with experience at the No. 4 position. Having played the past three years, Harvey said Lammers  brings a positive personality and her leadership abilities are an enormous addition to the team.
At the No. 5 position, Harvey will look to senior  Danielle Dillon to step up her game this season, Harvey said Dillon  has made great strides throughout these four years.
Rounding out the No. 6 position this season for Boonville is senior sophomore Ella Kearns. Harvey said Kearns, who is only in her second season, has impressive drive and determination.
Harvey said these are currently the top six in the lineup but the girls are still playing challenge matches so the lineup is subject to change.
Other players who will contribute this season for Boonville are seniors Amelia Widel and Martha Waller, juniors Molly Amos, Alexa Martin and Kira Phelps, sophomores Arji Webster, Hailey James, Jordyn Williamson, Abigail Pannell, Alyssa Fitzgerald, Kate Schneringer, Lilli Hendrix, Haylie Mendez and Evelyn Drew.