Bolivar High School seniors Lexi Berry and Megan Roberts are friends and tennis doubles partners who won the school’s first doubles state championship last weekend.
The partners earned a 6-4, 6-2 title game win over a duo from St. Louis private school Villa Duchesne on Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
Roberts, Berry and coach Nathan Rothdiener, who is in his first year coaching the girls team, recently shared their thoughts on the significance of the historic moment and how it will impact the future of Bolivar’s program.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Megan and Lexi, you faced some of the best tennis players in the state and came out on top. How did you feel going into the state tournament?
LB — I felt pretty confident going into every match except for the championship match. I was confident. But the people we had to play were really good.
MR — I would say I was confident. But I never saw a match as easy. I never thought, “Oh, we’re definitely going to win this.”
LB — We made mistakes and so did the other teams, but it’s how you react to those mistakes that helped us.
Did you know you were capable of taking the title?
MR — After we won district, I was like, “Man, OK, now we have to win sectionals.” Then, our goal at state was to make it to the top eight. We made it to Saturday, and it was like, “We’re in the top four now. We can do this.”
Coach, did you know they were capable?
NR — I've had the privilege of having Megan and Lexi in class, and since I've coached boys tennis for the last five years, I followed their success and was aware of how good they were. I really got the idea of how special they were when I went to watch them last year at state. They won their first match last year and then lost to some very good competition, but I was able to see how good they were and what we could do to get better. When we got to work this summer, we started that process and the results speak for themselves.
Lexi and Megan, you’re state champions now. How does that feel?
LB — Going in, I knew we could do it. We won districts and sectionals and after every milestone, I was excited, but I was also ready for the next one. It feels good to get to the top.
MR — It’s better than I could ever imagine. It just doesn't seem real. You see it happening for other people, and wonder if it could ever be you. It’s a dream. It’s awesome.
How did your experience at state differ from last year, when you were eliminated in the second round?
MR — Last year, we didn’t think we had a good chance at winning. We just wanted to have fun.
LB — This year, there was a MSHSAA class change. I like to think it didn’t make things easier, It just made things fair. Going in, we knew we had a shot at the title. We just had to play our best.
Coach Rothdiener, what are Megan and Lexi like to coach?
NR — They are the absolute best to coach. They both realize that to accomplish something like winning a state championship, it takes more than just coming to practice. They realized they need to put in the work in the offseason, which they did. They worked hard at our camps and even on their own with lessons and playing with each other. But, honestly, the best thing about coaching them is not how good of tennis players they are, but what kind of a person they are. They have the biggest hearts and really want to use tennis as a platform to share their kindness, integrity and love for others. They are ideal role models for anyone watching. I'm just fortunate to have been able to coach them.
Megan and Lexi, what’s your friendship like, and how does that help you on the court?
LB — We know each other so well, and we’re also very similar. We can tell if each other is down, and we can read each other well.
MR — Lexi moved here our freshman year. We were kind of friends, but tennis season that year brought us closer. We know how to cheer each other up. Say I mess up on a point or I’m just having a bad game, I know I can always turn to her and she can always pick me up. You don’t have that with every doubles duo.
NR — What makes these girls so good is that they are best friends off the court. This translates to a dream double team. They pick each other up when they need to. They call each other out when they need to. They communicate well on the court, and their style of play complements each other very well.
Lexi, the BH-FP has a photo of you making a goofy face at Megan during a match. Is that a strategy?
LB — We actually communicate through our facial expressions sometimes! Megan does the same thing.
Coach, what does their success mean for the rest of the program?
NR — I'm hoping that my younger players and people watching will see their success and it will motivate them to work as hard as they did. In 2008, when the girls basketball team won state, my daughter and her friends were just in third and fourth grade at the time, and they got to witness it, and it motivated them to want to do the same thing and eventually they would make it to state. I'm hoping the same thing happens here for other players.
McKinley Hedges qualified for state and competed on the first day. She lost just one match all year. Josie Douglas came close to qualifying. Who are they, and what’s the future of the team look like?
NR — McKinley was nails for us all season. She beat Rogersville’s number 2 to make it to state. She's a competitor and hates to lose, so she will give her best day in and day out. Josie was also a huge factor to our success as a team all season and one of the reasons we are headed to state as a team this next weekend. Josie being so close to making it this year will drive her to work hard so she can shoot for a chance next year. She and McKinley play doubles together and have helped us win some big matches this year. They have two different styles of play. That makes our team tough to beat.
Megan and Lexi, describe your partner.
MR — We are kind of the same, a little bit. She is always fun on and off the court. She’s kind. She always helps me with everything. She’s always there. On the court, she’s super competitive. We both are, so it’s great we’re on the same team. She’s always got spirit. She’s the best partner and friend I could ask for.
LB — Off the court, Megan is happy-go-lucky and always brings a good attitude. She cheers everyone up and just makes everyone around her happy. On the court, she’s more competitive than you think she is. That helps a lot because we’re both competitive. So, it’s been really good being able to play with each other, especially since we’re such good friends. Not a lot of people get to win a state championship, but very few get to do it with one of their best friends.