By Don Eskins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Bolivar Liberators dropped a hard-fought 5-0 decision to the Clayton Greyhounds during Saturday’s, May 27, Class 1A state tennis final held at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
With the loss, the Liberators closed out their season as the Class 1 runner-up for the second year in a row. Although disappointed with the loss, head coach Nathan Rothidiener said his kids had a lot to be proud of in 2023.
“We may not have gotten what we came for, but we did get here. Our kids took the courts against a very good Clayton squad today,” he said. “But they gave it their best, left it all out on the court, and I couldn’t have asked more of them.”
“We graduated six of eight kids off last year’s team. So for us to push forward, all the way to this year’s state championship final in a rebuilding year, was quite an impressive feat for our kids,” said the Liberator coach. “Myself, and assistant coach Royce Bryan couldn’t be prouder.”
Kyle Pock and Seth Martin’s doubles match proved to be one of the biggest of the day for the Liberators. Although dropping the match they battled the Greyhounds to an 8-8 stalemate, before losing the match, in a tiebreaker.
“Although we lost, we played really well,” said Pock. “Things just didn’t go our way down the stretch. But even though we lost, against a really good Clayton doubles team, the match was a lot of fun.”
“We battled back throughout the match to tie it up at 8-8,” said Martin. “We just weren’t able to pull it out at the end. But despite the loss I’m really proud of how we, and our team, played today.”
Bolivar downed Logan-Rogersville 5-1 in the first round, New Covenant Academy 5-4 in second round quarter final play and Duchesne 5-2 in the semifinals in route to this year’s championship matchup with Clayton.
Getting to this year’s final, said Rothidiener, was largely due to an exceptional group of young men who suited up for this year’s Liberators.
“Overall, we were pretty young this year,” he said. “But we did have two seniors, Kyle Pock and Emory Havens, who played key roles in helping us to get to this year’s championship final. We’re going to miss them a lot next year.”
“Kyle, our No. 2 man this year is going to be very hard to replace. He’s been with us for four years, and although we lost one year due to COVID, he made it to the Final Four for three straight years and the state final for the past two,” he said. “Individually he also made it to state for three straight years in doubles.”
“Emory, our No. 5 player, will also be missed,” said the Bolivar coach. “He’s been a great role model for our younger players. He worked hard every day and provided us with some great leadership.”
While Pock and Havens will be lost to graduation next year, four others on this year’s Bolivar varsity squad will be returning.
“Coming back next year will be Cy Douglas, our No. 1 man who is only a sophomore and works extremely hard,” he said. “Also returning will be our No. 3 man, junior Seth Martin. Seth, who placed third at this year’s state doubles tournament with Kyle, provides us with a lot of energy.”
“Our No. 4 man Ben Tull, a junior, was new to our program this year. He played well for us and will be returning as will junior Brock Campbell, our No. 6 man, who stepped up his play this year to get some quality time on the courts,” said the coach.
But coach Rothidiener wasn’t the only Liberator excited about this year’s finish at the state tournament and what’s coming up for them next year.
“We got off to a slow start this year, but as the year moved on, we got it together as a team, found ourselves in the state tournament’s Final Four for the third year in a row and battled our way all the way into the championship final,” said Martin. “Next year, although we are losing two seniors, we can hopefully get to the Final Four for the fourth year in a row. It would be great to have another shot at winning the state title.”