Republic tennis wins COC title

By Don Eskins (For

Ten teams showed up on Wednesday to compete for coveted singles and doubles titles at this year’s ‘2019 COC Tennis Tournament’ held at Springfield’s Cooper Complex.

In singles competition top honors went out to Joplin’s Astrid Cardenas who topped Republic’s Elsie Crawford in first flight play and Ozark’s Claire Metcalf downed Joplin’s Emma Watts to claim the second flight title.

This year’s first flight doubles championship went out to Nixa’s Kirsten Bybee and Megan Brassard who teamed up to best Madeline Blackford and Taylor Storm of Carl Junction. Willard’s Kaitlyn Burson and Courtney Yates downed Nixa’s Eloise Martens and Morgan Ansley for this year’s second flight title.

Joplin’s Cardenas, only a sophomore, is a two time COC Tournament Champion. Last year she placed first in second flight singles play.

“I’m really happy to have been able to win the first flight conference title this year,” said Cardenas. “I wasn’t too sure how successful I’d be at this level because there are so many really good players in it. But I got the win and it feels good. It’s also given me a boost of confidence as we head into district play next week.”

For Nixa’s Bybee and Brassard winning a doubles title at the COC Tournament Championship was a first time event.

“We play great together,” said Bybee. “We communicate well and we know what each other is thinking on the court. We’re real close, so winning this year has meant a lot to both of us. It’s a very special feeling and something neither of us will ever forget.”

The Republic Lady Tigers slipped past Ozark High by the narrowest of margins, 15 to 14.5, to grab the team title.

The win made it two conference tournament titles in a row for the Lady Tigers and three out of the last four years.

Nixa, Willard and Joplin tied for third place honors with 20 points each.

While the COC tournament was predominately about singles and doubles play collecting the conference tournament title is still a big accomplishment.

As for Republic winning this year’s tournament title, it couldn’t have come at a better time. 2019 has been filled with ups and downs for the Lady Tigers but Tuesday’s victory now has them pumped and ready to go for next week’s district tournament.

“It has been a season of ups and downs for us,” said Republic head coach Dan Vales. “We dropped a couple of matches during the middle of the season which was pretty disappointing for our girls but the team has been coming on again towards the end of the season.”

“I felt pretty good today about our chances coming into the tournament,” said Vales. “And our kids did what I had hoped they would do, they carried the momentum they’ve been building for the past few weeks into the tournament and turned in a very solid performance. They turned in the tournament’s top score and got us the win against a very tough Ozark High.”

And just how well did the Lady Tigers play?

“We had only one girl, Elsie Crawford, finish in the top two of either first or second flight play. But we had a lot of other kids play well enough to score points and help out too.”

“The fact that we had only one athlete to finish first or second shows just how much depth there is on our team,” the Lady Tiger coach said. “I’m really proud of them all.”

COC Finals

First Flight Singles:
1. Astrid Cardenas- Joplin
2. Elsie Crawford- Republic

Second Flight Singles
1. Claire Metcalf- Ozark
2. Emma Watts- Joplin

First Flight Doubles
1. Kirsten Bybee/Megan Brassard- Nixa
2. Madeline Blackford/Taylor Storm- Carl Junction

Second Flight Doubles
1. Kaitlyn Burson/Courney Yates- Willard
2. Eloise Martens/Morgan Ansley- Nixa