By Don Eskins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
There was no stopping the Kickapoo Chiefs in their bid to capture this year’s 2019 Ozark Conference Tennis Championship at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield on Tuesday.
Following an opening round bye the Chiefs rolled over West Plains 5-0 during quarterfinal action and then topped Rolla 5-0 in the semifinals before upending Glendale 5-1 in the tournament final to win this year’s Ozark Conference title.
For Kickapoo head coach Eric Wilbur getting to watch his kids grab this year’s title was very special.
“We won the Ozark Conference championship in 2017. Last year we just missed out finishing second to Joplin,” said Wilbur. “It was really great to be able to watch our kids climb back on top again in 2019.”
“Winning this year’s Ozark Conference championship does feel good. I’ve helped win a conference title for two of the last three years now and I’m only a junior,” said Kickapoo’s No. 1 player Matt Zengel. “I’m going to have another shot at winning this tournament again next year and I’m already looking forward to the challenge.”
“It is good to be back on top again,” said Kickapoo’s Jackson Arbeitman. “And I think we all played well, like a team, to get the win. Now we’re headed to district and hopefully on to sectionals and state.”
The Glendale Falcons, although finishing second to the Chiefs, showed well in the tournament. Well enough to get the approval of their head coach Mark Penticuff.
“I feel like our kids played really consistent today. They kept their heads together and they helped and encouraged each other when they struggled. They looked and played like a team,” the Falcon head coach said. “I think their performance today should give them a lot of confidence as they head into district tournament play.”
The tournament’s third spot went out to the Central High Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were awarded third place after a Rolla High forfeit.
Nonetheless the Bulldogs, who entered the tournament without the services of their No. 2 player, drew nothing but praise for their day’s effort from their coach, Donita Cox.
“Because we were missing our No. 2 player most of our kids had to move up a spot to compete,” said Cox. “And while we did experience some problems early in the tournament our kids got better as the day progressed.”
“We have our district tournament coming up next. I feel confident that once we get our team all back our kids are going to play well,” said Cox. “They’ve improved steadily all season long and I think they’re more than ready for our district tournament.”
Chief coach Wilbur says he’s confident that his kids should perform well at district also.
“The seedings aren’t out yet so we’re still waiting to see where we’ll wind up. But our kids are ready to go,” said Wilbur. “They showed a lot of grit today, now we’re anxious to see what they can do at district.”
8. West Plains
Kickapoo: 1. Matt Zengel, 2. Jackson Arbeitman, 3. Caden Hillman, 4. Joseph Cockell, 5. Mitchell Cope and 6. Benjamin Blaine.
Glendale: 1. Payton LaFevers, 2. Jaebok Moon, 3. Brandon Rader, 4. Kendrick Scott, 5. Theron LePage and 6. Jackson Gintz.
Central: 1. Sage Riddle, 2. Asa Scott, 3. Bryan Liu, 4. Nic Wiley, 5. Marco Lequio, 6. Anthony Trimble, 7. Michael Lee and 8. John Georgidas.