The coronavirus pandemic wiped out their title hopes last season, and a pair of hurricanes forced St. Louis Catholic’s tennis teams into a nomadic season. But the Saints have emerged as title contenders.
“It has been super difficult,” St. Louis sophomore Kai Reinauer said. “I haven’t had many court opportunities.
“A lot of courts were destroyed by the hurricanes, and it has been difficult practicing during COVID, but it has all worked out pretty well. We have made it work, managed to practice well. It has worked out so far for regionals, and we will see how it goes for state. I think we have a really good shot to win state.”
Head coach Robert Piper feels that the trials the team faced this season only brought them closer together.
“As the season wore on, we played four home matches this year at three locations — Sam Houston, Barbe, and McNeese,” Piper said. “The kids are resilient.
“They did a good job. I think the comradery of the team made them stronger. They love the game so much. I don’t think they missed a practice. I think they had an eye on the state championship from the time they were assembled.”
The Saints qualified three singles players and five doubles teams for the Division III state championships on Thursday and Friday at the UL-Monroe tennis center.
The Saints won the boys and girls team titles last week at the Division III, Region II tournament at the Lake Charles Racquet Club.
“What makes them unique is their talent,” Piper said. “The kids are so strong.
“They come from very strong families. They are as polite and well-mannered as can be. They work hard and want to be there. They are just a good bunch of kids to be around, and they are fun to be around. We are going to be one of the most competitive teams there (state). I think it would be somewhat disappointing if we came home without it (state title), but there is work to be done.”
The St. Louis boys are after their first-ever state championship, while the girls are going for their first state title since 2016 and fifth overall. If either team takes home the state
championship trophy this week, it will be the school’s 50th state championship.
“Last year, we wanted that shot (at state), and it got cut short,” Eli Crawford said. “The only difference is how much we want it this year. We just have to stay ready to go and do what we do to win.”
Crawford, a junior, along with freshman Ben Reinauer make up the Saints’ top-doubles team and are undefeated. The Saints’ other two doubles teams are junior Camden Watkins and Dillon Darby, and Logan Bertrand and Grant Couste. Going into his first-ever match at the state tournament, Ben Reinauer feels the key is playing smart.
“We just have to play well and be smart,” Ben Reinauer said. “We have practiced a lot and worked hard.
“I think we have done really well this season. It has been super fun.”
Reinauer is undefeated in singles matches this year and won the regional title last week.
On the girls side, sophomore Kyleigh Atkins, who likes to attack the net, is undefeated in singles play.
“We have very competitive players, and we all push each other.”
“We think we have to have a good attitude.”
Sophomore Emma McCall qualified for the state tournament in singles, while the Saints also qualified two girls doubles teams in senior Reem Husein and junior Mary Rose Buttross, and sophomore Madelyn Buttross and junior Meredith Hennings.