HANNIBAL – Blair Burton and Elizabeth Stilley weren’t upset to be the top two players for the Hannibal girls tennis team last season.
Burton was the Pirates’ No. 2 singles player, but the No. 1 spot went to Sascha Pauly, a foreign exchange student from Belgium. Stilley was the team’s No. 3 singles player.
"We got another year under our belts," Stilley said. "We got a year to improve our games a lot."
They hope they’ve both improved enough to lead Hannibal this season as the top two players as seniors. They feel like they are.
"I think my ground strokes have really improved this year," Burton said. "It really helped having a player like Sascha here last year to play against and train with. She helped out a lot by being able to hit with her."
But they know there’s more responsibilities than just performing on the court. They have to set the example for their teammates off the court, too.
"We don’t really mess around much anymore," Stilley said. "We really try to be more of the leaders and cheer everyone else. You have to be the role model for everyone else on the team."
They know how they portray themselves on and off the court will be impressionable for their teammates.
"You just have to keep a good attitude," Burton said. "You’re playing the other team’s best players and that’ll be tough. So you have to have a good attitude and can’t hang your head when the rest of the team is watching you."
That’s even more the case as the Pirates are under the direction of first-year coach Abbey Jeffries. She’s brought on Jay Johnson as a volunteer assistant, who worked with Stilley and Burton their freshman season.
"I’m really looking forward to having coach Johnson back," Burton said. "We placed really well in conference our freshman year."
Burton and Stilley are the two most experienced players for the Pirates this season. They also return Elizabeth Brummell and Jaspreet Kandola to the singles lineup.
It’s a group that has Jeffries excited for her first season.
"They’re a great group of girls," she said. "They’ll work hard and they come out on their own time, and I really like that."
It could be a group that continues to build from last season.
"We just want to do better," Burton said. "I think last year we won three matches, so if we win four that’s better than last season."