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Season comes to end for Panthers

Team learns much in a trying campaign

Kevin Cooper
Kevin Cooper

NORWALK — Creston/Orient-Macksburg’s relatively young girls tennis team went through its share of trying moments this season.

As the team very green on experience at the varsity level went through the season, coaches Kevin Cooper and Amanda Plymale had to remind them regularly everything would turn out alright.

While the Panthers competed hard, the end results were not quite what everyone was hoping for.

Creston/Orient-Macksburg’s individual season came to an end at Thursday’s individual team regional at Norwalk High School’s tennis courts.

The Panthers two singles and two doubles teams all lost their first-round matches and were eliminated from the tournament.

A season after qualifying a pair of doubles teams for state, the Panthers will not have a representative at either singles or doubles competition at state.

“The kids had high expectations for this year, we did too,” Cooper said. “We always have the same expectations. Our expectations are always to compete as hard as we can in the Hawkeye 10 and qualify kids for state. We just didn’t do that this year.”

The Panthers never could find their groove Thursday, or throughout the season, a sign of an inexperienced team.

“Consistency is what we’re missing,” Cooper said. “We look like a young, inconsistent team. We’ve got to get to the point where the unforced errors aren’t happening. We had too many unforced errors.”

As the unforced errors mounted, so did the mental struggles to stay in the match.

“The kids are dealing with frustration all day,” Cooper said. “It’s where they’ve been this year. We just keep telling them everything’s OK, everything’s OK. We’re behind the scale right now. It doesn’t mean it can’t be moved forward over the summer or winter or spring next year.”

This season’s team had to grow up quickly in spots they had not been at in the past.

“They were maybe up a spot they weren’t ready for or that spot took them awhile to get to that spot,” Cooper said.

Playing up spots in the lineup they’re not used to was a challenge, and is a challenge no matter the sport, Cooper noted.

“It’s just like Megan (Haley) to be number one as a sophomore. That’s like being the starting quarterback for a sophomore, or the starting pitcher for softball or the point guard,” Cooper said. ‘There’s a learning curve. It can be frustrating. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, whatever sport you’re doing, the learning curve can be frustrating.”

Those that return next season can do so knowing that their challenges will not seem as daunting in 2018.

“For the kids coming back, it will never be harder than this year,” Cooper said.

The emotions the team showed was a good sign in Cooper’s mind.

“The kids are frustrated. That’s good,” Cooper said. “If they weren’t frustrated, I’d be more concerned. They’re all competitive kids.”

Cooper anticipates good things from those that work hard this summer.

“I’ve had some kids go nuts during the summer, work hard,” Cooper said. “Some kids will look at it and work had and try to get there again next year. That’s all we can do.”

Cooper looks for good things to come from his team’s members in other sports going forward.

“We want our kids who play tennis to be multiple-sport athletes. For some of them, softball season just started (Thursday). They’re 100 percent committed to that,” Cooper said. “Some of the kids are like, well, I don’t have softball. Some of them are going to work hard this summer. Some kids will get ready for volleyball.”

Leah Stowe, Mattie Wheeler and Madison Callahan were three of Creston’s seniors this season, along with Rebecca Coleman Macy Evans and Livi Hartman.

“Those girls, the seniors that we’ve had, waited behind some other girls to play varsity,” Cooper said. “I’m glad they got to experience that, glad they got to come here and this, do the overnight trip, the Hawkeye 10. I’m glad they got to experience it.”

For those players returning, their work between now and next season will be key.”

“Hopefully we can keep all the kids coming back, working and enjoying it,” Cooper said. “We do this for fun. Hopefully, they stay out.”


Nicole Alexander, Norwalk, def. Megan Haley, C/O-M, 6-0, 6-3.

Avelina Popkov, Chariton, def. Sara Williamson, C/O-M 6-3, 6-2.


Jadie Knobbe/Madeleine Schwarte, Kuemper Catholic, def. Madison Callahan/Mattie Wheeler 6-1, 6-2.

Isabel Schwabe/Samantha Schwarte, Kuemper Catholic, def. Chloe Hagle/Heylee Shields, 6-1, 6-0.

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