KCHI Sports Director, Brent Hesse, sat down with Coach Sophie Chambers of the Chillicothe Hornets Tennis team to discuss the upcoming fall season. The audio of the interview that played on the radio is included in this article, and Coach Chambers’ responses are in bold.
Brent Hesse, here with another fall sports season preview, talking with the Girls Tennis Coach Sophie Chambers. Sophie how are you doing today? Thank you so much for joining us.
I’m great! We’re out here at the tennis courts and we just finished challenge matches and we’re super ready to start working on the season.
I know we’re all excited for fall sports to get underway and the girls tennis team was so successful last year. Let’s talk about that first, you had such a good run finishing 4th place in the State, winning the District and the Sectional. Can you talk about what the success meant last season, your first year as the coach and how you want to build off that for this year?
That really exceeded our wildest dreams. We were working to be a District champ again and at least compete in Sectionals and when we made it to State we were just over the moon excited and it was really good for us because we have so many returning players, to know what they can keep working towards and that it’s within their reach ever since MSHSAA changed to the multiplier effect where the private schools get bumped up a little, our class is really a doable class now that we can fight for a Sectional, State type of visit every year and it should never be out of reach so we’re excited to know that now and really understand what we can work for.
Talk about the success that the program has had even before you, four straight District championships but of course, taking it another level this past season. Have you seen that in the off-season, beginning of practices now, the mindset changing and what is the mindset for this team going to this year?
Yeah, I can definitely see a shift in my mindset because I have so many returning players. They spent a lot of time working in private clinics and big Kansas City tournaments, playing against a different level of competitor than just showing up for the summer, and playing against their own teammates. I have some girls who would love to play some college ball and so that’s really motivated them in the off-season as well. We absolutely feel the pressure to be a five time District Champ. You don’t want to be the group that loses it, right? Some of these girls have never lost a District Championship and so we have every intention of trying to win the District again but also it’s been a long time since we won our Conference. Pius and LeBlond always have great tennis teams and Savannah is always super competitive, so we are working hard to try to make a run for Conference Champ this year which is a big step.
The Girls Tennis team finished third in the conference last year but of course then the success in the postseason and you mention a lot of returning player but also did lose some seniors last year. Can you talk about who you’re gonna have to replace and who are these players that we’re going to see on the tennis courts this year for the Chillicothe Hornets?
Yes, of course, losing our number one player this past season is hard but Izzie and Rylee are returning both as State doubles players last year and they’re leading the team at our one-two spot with another senior in three. So feel really solid that we have such good leadership in our top three spots and then this junior class has just really stepped up. They spent so much time in the off-season and some girls have come out of nowhere to fill those final spots on varsity. We are looking to play a seven man varsity because they’re all so good and tight with each other. We can’t just stop at six so we feel really good about if our number six players are that tight and strong we can really compete with everybody.
So talk us through the next couple of weeks. Of course you’re practicing this week and the next couple weeks. When are going to be your first matches? Where are they? When will your first home match be for everyone to come out and watch this Hornets team take the court?
So our schedule has changed dramatically because we want to start facing more Class 2 and Class 3 teams. There’s only three classes in MSHSAA tennis and we are Class 1. We had gotten to a point where we were only playing Class 1 teams and that doesn’t really prepare us to always win in Class 1. We rebuilt the schedule in the off-season this year to contain a lot more Class 2 and Class 3 competitors so that when we step into Class 1 matches feeling like, I can definitely do this, so we got invited after our State visit to compete in Joplin’s new 18 team two-day tournament which is quite an honor and we’re one of the only Class 1 teams out of all those teams. Day one we’re facing Staley. We know that’s crazy hard but that only makes us so much better when we get to our Districts and our Sectionals and our Conference and so August 25th, Friday, starts that two-day tournament. We fundraised to be able to do such a big tournament and overnights and we’re going to jump right into that with four matches in two days and then take a day off and we start the regular season play with Kirksville and Savannah and Cameron. So that last week of August we’re here at home twice, so we’d love the support out here and then, we’ve added right after that, get a day of rest and we’re going to the Platte County tournament which is a Class 2 tournament so we’re really excited about five new tournaments, we’ve added including a JV tournament so I can be developing my JV girls against North Kansas City type of schools and so that they are ready to fill varsity spots in the coming years as well.
It’s good to have that tough competition, definitely builds for later on in the season and I want to talk about what you think some of the strengths of this team will be, where you all will be the best at?
Well, I think we have great doubles partnerships for sure and since you start all duels in doubles, I’m glad that we can start strong together before we break apart into singles. I also just think we have really strong upperclassman leadership to keep people mentally where they need to be and never get flustered and frustrated, so I think our mental game will be really strong, then finally, this group is a really high energy, happy group, the vibe that they carry together is really fun to be around so I think as a team they will enjoy being together and wanting to win together and pushing each other.
Talking with the Girls Tennis Coach here at Chillicothe, Sophie Chambers. Thank you so much for your time. Looking forward to a great season!
Thank you so much.