Central tennis has Great (8) experience

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Even after just one win in three matches, Central girls tennis coach Annette Slattery is hoping for another invitation from the tournament director to participate in the prestigious Great 8 Tournament in Columbia, Mo.

"Ben Loeb has a running joke with me that if a team finishes last in the tournament they don't get invited back," said Slattery, who has returned to coach the Tigers after a four-year abscence. "We haven't finished last yet so I hope we get to come back again."

Central, which competed in the first six years of the 10-year tourney, finished seventh among the eight teams at the tournament this past weekend. But realistically, that was the best that the team could expect this year against the caliber of the opposition.

"I don't think many people realize that there is a whole different level of tennis that is played in other areas of the state," Slattery said. "I tried to talk up the tournament with the team and I think it is going to turn out to be a very good experience for us."

The Tigers, who had opened the season with victories against Farmington and Jackson, got the roughest of draws and had to face defending Class 2 state champion Rock Bridge in the first round of the tournament Friday. The Bruins dominated, winning 9-0.

Things did not get much easier as Central lost 9-0 to Class 1 runner-up John Burroughs in the consolation divison. The Tigers were much more competitive in the second match.

Central averted the last place finish with an exciting 5-4 triumph over Columbia Hickman in the seventh-place match Saturday.

"For the first time in the tournament we played a team we were evenly matched against, and it was nice to get the win," Slattery said.

The Tigers' depth proved to be the difference. Hickman won at the top two singles spots and at the No. 1 doubles position. But Cape Central won five of the other six matches.

Seniors Brett Ford and Liz Lafoe won at No. 3 and 4 singles, and freshman Lindsey Pingel was victorious at No. 6 as the teams split their singles matches.

The Tigers needed a pair of wins at doubles and they got them from Lafoe and junior Jill Blattner at No. 2 and from the freshmen duo of Pingel and Sarah Ford at No. 3.

"This is such a good event for us to get into," Slattery said. "If we don't play in events like this, we don't see these kinds of teams until sectionals. And then they are just in awe of what they see.

"It's a wakeup call to how the game of tennis, and in particular doubles, is played. I think we learned to play better defense and we showed a lot of scrappiness out there. The thing that encouraged me the most was the huge difference in the way we hit the ball from Friday morning to Saturday afternoon."

The Tigers play at Carbondale, Ill., today and host district foe Oakville on Saturday.

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