WOOD RIVER — Sydney Owsley praised the play of the Roxana High girls’ tennis team Wednesday afternoon.
The junior clearly liked what she saw at the East Alton-Wood River High tennis courts. The Shells defeated the Oilers, 8-1, in a neighborhood rivalry battle and improved to 6-1. EA-WR dropped to 0-5.
“I think we have a good team,” said Owsley, the Shells’ No. 1 singles player. “We have improved a lot across the board. We have more depth and strategy. People have put in more work this year.”
That seemed to work for the Shells against their backyard opponents. Roxana won all six singles matches and two of three doubles bouts. Georgia Ballard, Haley Milazzo, Sara Kreutztrager, Annie Myers and Aria Langer joined Owsley as singles winners.
It was Milazzo and Kreutztrager, plus Amanda Orr and Angie Fergerson, prevailing for the Shells in doubles competition. The Oilers’ Courtney Beneke and Riley Wallendorff won their doubles match.
“We will compete,” EA-WR coach Mary Broadway said. “We have five seniors who have been on this team for four years and seven seniors in all.”
The Oilers are also counting on one junior, one sophomore and four freshmen in the mix of things for the remainder of the fall.
“We’re all looking to work as a team,” EA-WR senior Kiersten Niethe said. “We’re all having fun and we want to have a good season.”
The same goes for the Shells, 18th-year head coach Mike Kathriner said. Roxana’s lone loss thus far was to powerful Marquette Catholic, 7-2.
“I’ve got everybody back on this team and we have experience. That’s nice,” he said. “It’s the best start we have had in a while.”
Kathriner is eyeing more good things as the season progresses.
“We need to keep playing and do the best we can,” he said. “This team is deeper than ones we have had in the past, even if no one stands out that much individually.”
He added, “Our 2006 team was really good and so was last year’s team. But this team is stacking up — on paper — to be better.”
Owsley, a state qualifier in doubles two years ago and three-year varsity starter, senses the Shells have the right attitude to savor their share of success.
“It’s the best team I’ve played on and the strongest one,” Owsley said. “We’ve worked really hard with camps and lessons.”
She said the match against the Oilers was a good way to sharpen her style.
“I was able to practice on different shots and try other things,” she said.
Kathriner noted, “Our goal is to qualify some players for state in both singles and doubles. Our doubles team of Georgia and Anna Ballard went to state last year.”
The Ballards are senior twins. EA-WR boasts a pair of sisters in senior Emily Olinghouse and sophomore Caytlin Olinghouse, along with senior Riley Wallendorff and sophomore Maegan Wallendorff. Thus, it’s sort of a family affair for both teams.
Both teams are scheduled to play Thursday. Roxana is at Greenville, while EA-WR goes to Jersey.
At Wood River
ROXANA 8, EA-WR 1
Singles –Sydney Owsley (R) def. Emily Olinghouse, 8-1; Georgia Ballard (R) def. Courtney Beneke, 8-0; Haley Milazzo (R) def. Kayla Hewlett, 8-1; Sara Kreutztrager (R) def. Riley Wallendorff, 8-0; Annie Myers (R) def. Michelle Seitzinger, 8-4; Aria Langer (R) def. Kiersten Niethe, 8-0.
Doubles – Milazzo and Kreutztrager (R) def. Hewlett and E. Olinghouse, 8-3; Beneke and R. Wallendorff (EA-WR) def. Ashley Alexander and Jessica Levan, 8-6; Amanda Orr and Angie Fergerson (R ) def. C. Olinghouse and M. Wallendorff, 8-4.