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Bolivar’s Lathan Martin smacks the ball during a No. 2 doubles match in April 2019. 

One word comes to mind when Bolivar High School boys tennis coach Nathan Rothdiener is asked about his team — perseverance. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Liberators didn’t get a season last year. Spring sports were canceled before many programs’ first matches, and Bolivar’s seniors on the tennis team weren’t able to play their final year. 

Still, Rothdiener said, his group worked through those challenges. 

“They came out this summer and worked their tails off,” he said. “We had great attendance at open courts and several of them took lessons and went to camps at SBU to get better.”

Bolivar finished its last season — 2019 — with a loss to district champion Warrensburg in the Class 1 District 12 semifinal game. 

Then-senior Kaden Katzer advanced to the sectionals round of the state tournament before being eliminated. Katzer, now on the tennis roster at Southwest Baptist University, ended his senior campaign with a 17-4 record, the overall win at the Jefferson City Helias tournament, a second place finish at Republic and a trip to the quarterfinals of the Springfield Invitational.

Returning to that program is a hungry but relatively young, inexperienced team. 

“The biggest challenge this year is going to be making up from a lost year,” he said. “Losing that playing time last year is going to be a tough obstacle to overcome, but this is a group that can do it. And then, dealing with the ongoing pandemic will be challenging, as well.”

The Liberators do have positives though, Rothdiener said. 

“These guys love tennis,” he said. “I have several guys that play all the time. They are excited and hungry. They want to get out and play.”

Rothdiener said Bolivar can count returning junior Lathan Martin and sophomore basketball standout Kyle Pock among its enthusiastic group ready to return to the court. 

“We will have several guys that will step up and lead this team,” he said. 

Bolivar opened play Monday, March 29, against Nixa in Bolivar. 

Several tournaments are also on the schedule, including the Kickapoo Invitational, the Springfield Invitational, the Waynesville invitational and the Republic Tournament. 

“These guys persevered through losing their entire season last year,” he said. “I believe in them.”

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