Helias girls tennis looks to build in Year 2 under Maassen

Catie Meystrik of Helias hits a forehand shot during a doubles match last season against Father Tolton in the Class 1 District 8 Tournament championship dual at the Crusader Athletic Complex. (News Tribune file photo)

Year 1 was a good season for Helias girls tennis coach Molly Maassen.

A team district championship and a doubles team that qualified for the state tournament is one way to start on the right foot.

Year 2 this fall is looking up as well.

“We have a lot of returners,” Maassen said. “Out of our top six, four are seniors. They’re excited, they’re ready to get going.”

The Lady Crusaders were slated to start their season today with singles play in the First Serve Tournament at Capital City High School, but today’s action was canceled due to predicted extreme heat conditions. However, the doubles tournament is still on schedule for Saturday.

“It’s important for these girls and their confidence to get out there,” Maassen said.

Catie Meystrik, a junior, will be Helias’ No. 1 singles player for a second straight season. Meystrik advanced to the Class 1 doubles state tournament last year with her older sister, Hannah, posting a 1-2 record at Springfield.

“There was a lot of a learning curve last year, just in understanding how to be the No. 1 player,” Maassen said. “It’s a hard position to play. But she came out great, and I expect even more from her this year.”

Mary Lorang, one of six seniors on the roster, is next at No. 2 in singles. She will also be paired with Meystrik in doubles play.

“They bring a lot of power,” Maassen said. “They’ve both played for a long time.”

Helias’ other returning varsity players are seniors Sydney Drinkard and Liz Drainer, who will be the No. 2 doubles pairing. Drinkard will move all the way up to No. 3 in singles and Drainer will round out the varsity spots at No. 6.

“They are great together,” Maassen said. “… I really think that, together, they’re going to take over that (No. 2) position and I think they’ll do a great job.”

Moving up to the varsity level are senior Izzy Struemph, who will be No. 4 in singles, and sophomore Josie Francka, who is next at No. 5. They’ll be the No. 3 doubles pairing.

“This is a new experience for them, but they’re excited to be here,” Maassen said. “They played really hard in our challenge matches and they worked themselves all the way up. They’ve got determination.”

At the top of the JV roster are seniors Jada Markway and Katie Roling and freshman Josie Meystrik. They could also see some varsity action during tournaments.

The Lady Crusaders won’t do much traveling the first few weeks of the season, playing in Jefferson City seven times in that stretch, either in tournaments or duals. The only time they’ll leave town before Sept. 13 is for Tuesday’s dual at Logan-Rogersville.

“Any time you can get home matches, that’s awesome,” Maassen said. “Then that means more parents come to watch, more friends come, and the girls love spectators.”

Helias finished 3-2 in Central Missouri Activities Conference duals last season.

“It’s competitive,” Maassen said. “We really enjoyed it last year and I expect nothing less this year.”

Class and district assignments will be released today. Last year’s district championship gives Helias a “championship” factor of three points, meaning the Lady Crusaders will move up one class for at least the next two seasons.

“You just have to do your best,” Maassen said. “I want the girls to learn something every single time they’re on the court and take it on to the next dual, and hopefully we’ll be successful in the postseason.”