With all other varsity matches concluded and players from both sides and their fans all gathered around the No 5 singles court Tuesday, Ozark’s Roman Campa soaked in the atmosphere.
With Ozark and Branson tied at 4-all and as his match went to a tie-breaker, Campa figured he was a winner no matter the outcome.
“It was nerve-wracking and my heart was really pumping,” Campa said. “It was a great match. I’m glad I had that moment.”
Campa fell to Branson’s Mason Carlson 9-8 (10-8), but surely will benefit from the experience of playing under such pressure.
“That was a big burden to be out there with the whole match riding on his shoulders likes that, especially for a first-year player,” Tigers coach Greg Hannah said. “He handled it well. I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from him. It will definitely toughen him up.”
Campa and Anderson may not have another match in which they play in front of a bigger crowd.
“It made the game a lot more fun,” Campa said. “One thing to remember as a player is not to let that get to your head. You have to stay focused and calm and rely on mental toughness."
Campa fought off two match points and Carlson one before Carlson finally prevailed. Leading 8-7 in the tie-breaker, Campa had a potential winner bounce off the top of the net and back at him.
“I tried to hit a forehand over to his backhand volley,” Campa said. “It was real close.”
Ozark’s Logan Hylton was a winner in both singles and doubles play. He teamed with Garrett VonBecker for an 8-4 win at No. 3 doubles and rolled to an 8-5 victory at No. 4 singles.
In singles, Hylton pulled ahead 3-2 and kept momentum on his side the rest of the match.
“I think the match went really well,” Hylton said. “I hit deep and to his backhand.”
Hylton’s game is on the rise, thanks to both lessons he receives at Millwood Golf & Racquet Club from former Drury player Amanda Smith and Drury coach Jared Smith.
“They’ve made me into the player I am,” Hylton said.
Hylton also gives lessons.
“I get to have fun with the kids,” he said. “It’s fun and high energy. It can be a little taxing, especially with the 6-year-olds. But it teaches you patience.”
Ozark’s No. 1 singles player, Luke Mulder, pulled out an 8-6 win after he and Justin Battaglia fell 8-1 at No. 1 doubles.
“You have to re-set mentally,” Mulder said of falling in doubles before playing singles. “It can be tough. But you have no other option. I think my mental game stayed strong today.”
Mulder was proud of himself for not giving in to temptation. Branson’s Caleb Brown repeatedly hit high-bouncing returns to Mulder’s forehand in hopes Mulder would be impatient and try to go for a winner.
“He was trying to out-consistent me and try to play longer than I could to see if I would make the first mistake,” Mulder said. “Part of me wanted to just hit the ball back and part of me wanted to hit the ball as hard as I could. I did that one time and it didn’t go too well.”
Mulder’s patience was rewarded when he ran to the net to smash a winning forehand on match point.
“I saw the opportunity and took it,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily put a label on my game. I’m probably more of a baseline player. But I make sure I can play (the baseline and at the net). My consistency and ground strokes were very good. It was a very satisfying win.”
Ozark's No. 2 doubles team of Justin Battaglia and Gavin Reese won 9-7.