Mexico netters got off to a solid start Tuesday winning all three doubles matches against Moberly while hosting a semifinal round of the MSHSAA Class 1 District 8 team tournament.
While the early result caught Lady Bulldogs tennis coach Kim Costley by surprise, it also gave her players an added momentum boost to carry-on its mission. With about 40 witnesses on hand at the Fairgrounds Tennis Courts, Mexico handed Moberly a 5-0 defeat.
“I'm pleasantly surprised of our 5-0 sweep. We had been struggling with our doubles play most all year, and to see us start the night off winning all three of the doubles matches like we did has not been characteristic of our team. But I'm happy,” said Mexico tennis coach Costley. “Before we started play we preached to the girls to be consistent over and over in their play, taking it one game at a time and not worry about what the score was.”
Mexico (9-4) advances to Wednesday's district championship to face Palmyra (10-3), who knocked off Kirksville in its semifinal bout. The dual will be played at Truman State University in Kirksville with a 4 p.m. first serve.
The District 8 team champion qualifies for the MSHSAA state playoffs and will compete against District 6 champion in an Oct. 19 sectional round at a site to be determined. A pair of private institutions, Visitation Academy (12-1) and Mary Institute Country Day School (8-5) are playing for the District 6 title on Thursday.
“We've had our ups and downs in play, but overall I'm pretty pleased with how well the girls have improved their play.We graduated several girls last year from the program. Jennifer Jacobi moved from No. 3 singles to No. 1, Lexi (Winterbower) moved from No. 6 to No. 2, and our girls playing Nos. 3,4,5,6 did not play varsity last year,” said coach Costley. “For us being inexperienced as we are at the varsity level, I'd say we have had a great year.”
Although there are three doubles matches and six singles matches on the ledger, MSHSAA rules indicate that once a team acquires five victories from any combination of doubles or singles matches, then that school is awarded the team dual win . All other matches that remained in progress at the time a fifth win was awarded are suspended having no official scoring outcome of those respective matches.
The MSHSAA format for district team play is one set to 8 for doubles matches, and the best 2-out-of-3 sets for singles matches.
Mexico seniors Jennifer Jacobi and Lexi Winterbower continued their longstanding partnership held the past two seasons being doubles partners, and this fall they moved up three notches into the role of playing No. 1 doubles. The duo met Moberly seniors Molly Greene and Lilliane Powell, who replaced Greene's longtime partner Maddie Meystrik due to her nursing a shoulder injury.
Following a 1-1 game score, Jacobi and Winterbower won three unanswered games but Greene and Powell fought back to close deficit to 5-4 having numerous volleys being exchanged, which prompted a brief timeout discussion between Jacobi and Winterbower before play resumed.
“We had to change our strategies up a little bit throughout the game because it wasn't working like we expected, or wanted. We were ahead in the score a lot and then they would catch up. We had to talk to figure out what was wrong, make the adjustment changes and then we were able to maintain control,” said Jacobi. “Part of the problem was we were making too many unforced errors.”
Jacobi and Winterbower's adjustments allowed the duo to garner an 8-5 win.
Meanwhile, Mexico's No. 2 doubles unit of Ellen Phillips and Vesta Grace Prater fought off Moberly's Katelyn Kruse and Jadyn Davidson to win 8-6. Shelby Kennemore and her No. 3 partner Lacy Schooneboom won by the same score against Moberly's Maggie Smith and Ashton Martin.
Following a short break, all six singles matches were simultaneously played when Winterbower and Prater ended the three hour event by posting the fourth and fifth respective victories for Mexico.
Winterbower made quick work of Moberly senior Kruse winning in straight sets 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 singles.About 45 minutes later, Grace regained her composure after edging Moberly's Ashton Martin 7-6 in the opening set to earn a 6-2 triumph in the next segment that delivered the Lady Bulldogs team its victory to advance.
“I thought our girls played well considering we had to move just about everyone around up some spots to play that they hadn't played at before. The girls remained competitive, and no one gave up or lost really bad so I'm proud of them,” said Moberly tennis coach Kyle Weichens. “We almost had a winner in singles. Maggie Smith won her first set 6-2 playing No. 3 singles and needed just one more game win in the second set to ended up winning the match when Mexico picked up its fifth win that ended the night. Also, Jadyn Davidson and Lilly Powell had split their sets and were into their third set when things ended.”
Phillips of Mexico was competing against Smith, Jacqueline Riportella was the No. 5 singles opponent against Davidson, and Isabelle Riportella was battling Moberly's Powell at No. 6 singles. n 9 dual record.
Among the accolades celebrated by the Lady Bulldogs this tennis season included the recognition that both Jacobi and Winterbower earned all-North Central Missouri Conference honors for their achievements in singles bracket play at the 2019 NCMC Girls Tennis Championship Tournament held at Marshall. Also, the duo of Shelby Renee Kennemore and Lacy Clarke Schoneboom earned all-conference honors while competing in doubles. In the team standings Mexico finished third behind the event host and Palmyra.
As a team, the Mexico girls were tops once again at the Osage Tournament, winning a team championship for the third straight year. The program was led by Jacobi's taking first place in singles play as well.