Ozark's new No. 1 singles player, Germany foreign exchange student Lilli Roeder, is making the transition to a new country and from clay courts to hard courts.
While securing the Lady Tigers' No . 1 slot, Roeder, debuted by gaining a 6-2 win versus a Springfield Central player at last weekend's Springfield Kickapoo Tournament.
"I was very happy with my first win," said Roeder, who primarily plays on clay in Germany. "I hope I will get better as I play more on hard courts. When I play on clay courts, I slide and the ball is much slower. Here, the ball is much faster."
Roeder fell 8-2 at No. 1 singles and lost by the same score at No. 1 doubles in Ozark's 5-4 setback at Branson on Tuesday.
Roeder is the Lady Tiger's second foreign exchange student to play at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles in three seasons. Two years ago, Melissa Peralta-Sanchez arrived from Mexico to play for Ozark and won a COC championship and earned the program's first berth to State.
"Melissa came on stronger and stronger as the season went on," coach Mark McBain said. "I think Lilli will turn that way, too. She says she's getting used to (hard courts). I think she will make the transition. We're excited about her ability. She might be someone to reckon with."
McBain adds he also expects Roeder's play will continue to get better as she is more comfortable with her new surroundings, nearly 5,000 miles from her home.
"I encouraged her today to speak up on the score because your opponent is expecting that. She's kind of quiet and reserved," he said. "Some of that may be not always being comfortable with the language. It is a big change to all of a sudden be in America for a semester."
Roeder has been quick to make friends with her teammates.
"The girls here are all so nice," she said. "The first friends I made are on the tennis team. The girls are different than in Germany. They are not unfriendly (in Germany), but here they are so open.
"It's different here, especially at school," she added. "The first day, I came into a classroom and music was playing. That's not normal in Germany."
Roeder has been relaying all of her new adventures to her parents.
"We talk once a week and I text them every day," she said. "I tell them about school, the friends I have made and tennis."
Roeder has endeared herself to her host family and vice-versa.
"I love them," she said. "They come to every match to see me play."
"I was a fan of hers even before I saw her play," said Linda Murrow, who is Roeder's host mother. "She's wonderful. We love her. She's sweet as can be. She's shy. But we have brought her out of her shell. She jumps right in and gets involved now.
"I think about my own children if I was going to send them to another country to stay with strangers," Murrow added. "The comfort I would want knowing my child is safe, I try to give to her family. I try to stay connected with her mom and dad and let them know what is going on with her."