The Republic tennis team put itself in position to win another district championship Thursday, winning two of three doubles matches to start the night. But top-seeded Springfield Central rebounded to win four singles matches, earning the title. advancing to the state sectionals, and ending Republic’s successful season. Central won five matches overall, Republic won three, and one match was unfinished when Central clinched.
Coach Dan Vales said he told his players after the match they should be proud of how they played, despite the difficult loss.
“That was hard. I was pretty emotional, too, because I saw the pain in their faces and I knew how much it meant to them,” Vales said. “They laid it all on the line and did everything they could to win, and they just came up short. That happens sometimes. But they have nothing to be ashamed about. It’s probably one of the hardest-working teams we’ve ever had.”
After a final four appearance last season in Class 2, Republic returned most of its starters, but moved up to Class 3 and faced its most difficult schedule ever. Despite that, the team finished with a 16-3 overall record, its best ever, and a perfect 9-0 Central Ozark Conference mark.
“Last year, we got to the final four, and I don’t want to take anything away from them. But this year’s squad took their game to a little bit higher level … even though we came up short in the district finals. It was an incredible season.”
Although the Lady Tigers’ team season is over, Elsie Crawford will compete in singles at the state tournament next week in Springfield.