Roxana junior Sydney Owsley and Marquette Catholic sophomore Shelby Jones both enjoyed successful 2015 seasons on the tennis courts.
Both netters advanced to the state tournament, with each of them climbing in the win column at state. Their successes garnered them AdVantage News Co-Girls’ Tennis Players of the Year honors.
Owsley lost to Jones twice head-to-head in 2015 but found her footing once she got to state. The junior Shell went 3-2 at state in the singles bracket, capping her stellar season.
“It was a great experience; I didn’t think I’d go that far,” Owsley said. “I was down in the last match I won by a set. I lost the first set 6-0 and I came back and won the second set and the tiebreaker.
“This was a great accomplishment for me. There’s just so many people and there are a lot of good players up there.”
It was a great season for Roxana in general. The Shells were 10-5 in dual action and finished fifth at the Alton Sectional.
“This was the first year we had four all-conference girls,” Owsley said. “It was one of the best seasons we’ve had. Everyone put more time into it this year and we took more camps and spend more time after practice this season.”
Owsley went to state as a freshman in doubles with her sister Sami. Tragically, Sami died in an automobile accident on Nov. 9, 2013, following that season. The two were named the 2013 Co-Girls’ Tennis Players of the Year.
This was Owsley’s first trip back and doing it in singles was a big accomplishment. She got there by finishing fourth at the Alton Sectional.
She hopes this season’s improvement can carry over to next year and even more success. She plans to keep participating in offseason camps in Edwardsville under coach Dave Lipe and working with her personal coach, Brooke Tweedy.
“I’d like to go back to state; I hope for all conference again and just give it all that I have,” Owsley said.
Jones believes her progression from her freshman to sophomore year went well.
After finishing fourth at sectionals as a freshman, she moved to third this year and hopes to keep climbing the ladder as a junior.
Her individual success, coupled with Marquette’s team success, had Jones feeling satisfied.
“It was nice to win in the Alton Tournament for a second consecutive year as a team,” Jones said. “Then we got second at sectionals, which is great for the team, and there was a match with Triad when I played with Anne Tassinari, we were the deciding match if we would win or lose and we ended up winning. That was great for us. At sectionals getting third instead of fourth was great — another step up in my improvement to see where I’m at.”
The Explorers were 15-4 overall in dual matches in 2015 and won the city bragging rights over Alton High during the season. They capped it by producing 17 points at the Alton Sectional and advancing Jones in singles, as well as Laura Moore and Elena Gable in doubles to state.
Jones ultimately went 1-2 at state, but won her first match in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0.
“Freshman year was definitely a growing year,” Jones said. “I was No. 1 on the team and it was a lot to learn as a freshman. During sophomore year I was more prepared and it was easier to transition. It was definitely another growing year, but it was a little easier from last year.”
She plans to keep entering USTA-sanctioned events during the offseason and polishing her skills to improve for 2016.
“I’ve been working with my coach Jim Claywell after the season to keep improving on my techniques and tactics and strategies,” Jones said. “I’m also going to play some offseason tournaments to get me prepared.”
And with Jones and Owsley both returning next year, that rivalry should improve, too.
“The past few matches we’ve played have been some grinding matches,” Jones said. “It was just who stayed calm and had better shots at the times. She’s a very talented player and I’m looking for the competition to continue through our high school years. Not just her and I, but the whole Roxana and Marquette squads.”