The Holland girls tennis team was aiming for a conference championship but fell just three points short of claiming the OK Green Conference title on Friday.
Amongst fierce competition, Mona Shores won with 49 points, followed by Holland (47), Zeeland West (43), Reeths-Puffer (31), Zeeland East (29) and Union (11).
Holland’s No. 1. singles Libby LeFebre fought her way to the final match where she faced Zeeland West’s Paola Martinez. Martinez came away with the three-set victory, winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“We’ve been battling each other for the past two years, Martinez said. “It has been really great competing against her because it’s great to be challenged, and at one point, it becomes mental, and she is very mentally strong, and I admire that of her, but I just wanted it.”
It was a strong match at No. 1 singles.
“It’s nerve-wracking going into the finals, LeFebre said. “I went in with the attitude. I can win this; I think everyone has to do that, so losing was definitely a disappointment, but going in, I felt confident. Obviously, it didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but I played the best I could, and I’m proud of my performance, and I’m proud of my team.”
LeFebre credits her performance and her team and believes their efforts in this tournament will put them in a great position going into regionals and next season.
“It gives a lot of hope for next year too. I have full confidence that next year we are going to bring it and be ready for any other opponent,” LeFebre said.
Martinez and LeFebre both had been playing all day in the blistering heat. Martinez acknowledges this as one of many factors that aid in making it hard to stay mentally tough and focused.
“I think that you just have to acknowledge that whatever you’re experiencing, they’re experiencing too, Martinez said. “You’re in the same heat, you’re both tired, so at one point, it just becomes who wants it more.”
On the other side of the court, Holland’s No. 2. doubles players Emma Hulst and Natalie Legg faced off against Mona Shores, Ella Koch, and Isabella Sobczak. Hulst and Legg emerged victorious after an intense three-set match 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.
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“We worked really hard all season, and we’ve had our ups and downs, but coming out on top feels really good,” Hulst said.
Hulst and Legg have been playing tennis together for years and have become longtime friends. They heavily depend on one another to stay mentally sharp and focused.
“We’ve been playing together since sixth grade, and we’ve gained a double trust and know each other’s strength and what we can rely on, and we just work together really well,” Hulst said.
Although Holland fell short of winning the tournament, they still had great individual success as No. 2. singles Lizzie Munster finished second 6-0, 6-1. At No. 4. singles Melania Rocha finished first, winning 6-3, 6-3, and No. 3. doubles Claudia Kurniawan and Lena Vanderbilt Mancinelli finished second 7-6, 6-1, 7-3.
Holland coach Kyle Kreps was very proud of the Dutch performance and believed they rose to the occasion when faced with adversity.
“We knew coming in it was going to be tough, Kreps said. “We had a good showing against Zeeland West and Zeeland East last week, and I think really coming in, we just felt that we took care of business on our end and that things would kind of fall in our favor, but credit to the other teams.”
As any coach would say, it would’ve been ideal to win, but Kreps believes his team gave it their all and left it all out on the court. He attributes his team’s success to the confidence and determination of all the girls on the team and looks forward to seeing what they can do next season.
Zeeland West also had a strong finish placing third, and Zeeland East placed fifth. Zeeland West coach Lance McKinney acknowledges the tough competition they faced all season and how that elite competition has followed them into the tournament.
“I think the way the results fell show just how competitive the competition was all season, McKinney said. “Our girls worked hard and put a lot of time in the off-season and had some great opportunities, but we fell just a little bit short of where we wanted to be today but very happy with how we performed this season.”