As a sophomore on last year’s Lady Liberators tennis squad, Megan Roberts recalled the influence the team’s outgoing seniors had on the varsity group.
“More than half of our top was seniors, and we were really close to them,” she said.
Roberts was partnered in doubles with senior Paige Martin, with the two claiming third place at districts.
Martin graduated last year, along with 10 other seniors who made up eight of the top 12 spots on the team’s ladder, and helped lead the team to a 13-3 season, coach Lorie Periman said.
“I consider all of my 11 seniors as key players from last year,” Periman said. “They each contributed to our team in their own way. Whether it be skill, commitment, sportsmanship or competitiveness, they will all be greatly missed.”
Roberts, now a junior, returns as the team’s No. 1 netter. She claimed first in a flighted singles match at the Lady Liberators home tournament last year and placed first in the flight No. 1 singles at the Monett Invitational. Bolivar won the overall team competition at its home meet last year, winning the same category at the Monett Invitational.
Roberts said she and fellow junior Lexi Berry picked up the sport as freshmen and gradually grew to love it.
Berry returns as the team’s No. 3 after netting first place in flighted singles at the Bolivar tournament and first in the flight No. 2 doubles at the Monett Invitational.
Their success has brought the added drive to improve, Roberts said.
“The first year, I didn’t feel much pressure because I could just come out and do whatever, but now, the pressure’s on,” Roberts said. “We were both at the top last year so we’re kind of expected to be at the top this year.”
Berry said they’ll focus on giving this year’s underclassmen the same supportive experience they had on the team.
“We have 15 freshmen,” Berry said. “They all work hard. That’s a good thing, and it’s just going to keep building the culture we have. Everybody on the team is great. We all work together really well.”
The team’s freshman class includes Brynley Waters, Kyla Ewing, Jennie Yeargain, Abby Welch, Reagan Hunt, Sophie Vestal, Aubryn Sharp, Naomi Goughnour, Anna Roberts, Mary Grace Warden, Morgan Burrows, Elena Kallenbach, Montana Gregor and Clair Parsons.
While Roberts and Berry are the team’s only returning varsity athletes, the Lady Liberators will also see a swath of seniors return to the court, including Addison Martino, Annabelle Ramirez, Jayden Lippincott, Mary Bruce, Paige Reynolds and Taylor Clayton.
Juniors on the team include Roberts, Berry, Hannah Goughnour, Emily Sokolik, Kallie Barber and Arielle Morgan. Sophomores returning include Josie Douglas, McKinley Hedges, Maddy Edge, Sarah Bowes and Ashley Ward.
Periman, who will enter her eighth year as the team’s coach, said she’s proud of the group. The team hosted open courts over the summer, and around 20 to 25 girls showed up each week, she said.
“They are a great group of young ladies who work hard, play hard and are fun to coach,” she said.
The Lady Liberators open their season against Clinton at 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, in Clinton. They face Reeds Spring at home at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, and host a home varsity tournament at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25.