The West Ottawa women’s team put on a stunning performance in the OK Red Conference tournament on Saturday, marking the Panthers ’fifth consecutive conference title.
Dominating almost every court they passed, West Ottawa won the conference title with a total of 70 points, followed by Hudsonville (58), Rockford (51), Jenison (38), Grandville (37), Grand Haven ( 36), East Kentwood (18) and Caledonia (16).
The Panthers have won eight of nine flights, the first time the team has reached eight flight titles in a conference tournament.
West Ottawa put on a show that the audience will never forget. The No. 2. singles freshman rising star Danielle Lebster battled against Kelsey Wolma of Hudsonville in the finals. Lebster defeated Wolma in two set games, 7-5, 6-4.
He didn’t allow the pressure, Lebster remembered what his coaches had taught him and remained calm, relaxed and focused.
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“We learned tactics this week, especially between points on how to calm down and re-evaluate the situation,” he said.
Taking time between his games to remember his thoughts helped Lebster gain confidence and a sense of belonging in this chaotic atmosphere.
“Especially before the season, I mean, I can’t let them down,” Lebster said. “Otherwise, they say,‘ Why do we put the freshman at No. 2 singles spot? ‘ It’s nice to feel like I didn’t let them down, especially in the conference finals. ”
Lebster wasn’t the only Panther to face adversity and come out victorious. The No. 1. that Megan Blake finished first 6-2, 6-2, No. 3. Singles Chloe Duckworth finished first 7-5, 6-4, No. 2 in the finals.
The Panther doubles teams also finished well as the No. Eleanor Ervine finished first 6-4, 6-1, No. 4. doubles Rachel Kennedy and Jessica Zhang finished first 6-0, 6-4 and No. 5. doubles Eden Hamilton and Kayla Jones finished the first 6-2, 2- 6, 6-0.
The Panthers have had great success throughout the year, but that success started before the season started. Intense off-season training, including weights, could be the main reason for the tournament results.
“Most of what you win in the season, you win it in the offseason, and then you reap the rewards of the season,” coach Pete Schwallier said. “We got a conference title today, but they really got it the last few years.”
Every game, set and game was played with heartfelt emotion that pervaded all who watched, allowing the Panthers to deliver their most impressive season.
“The amount of poise that these specific girls play,” Schwallier said. “You can tell that it’s important for each of these women to do good for themselves, their teammates, their families, for everyone. You could say it’s important for them to do well because it represents something, and that’s very special to see. ”
It was a special moment for the Panthers as they left the courts crying with joy and not a single word could describe what they had just accomplished.
“It’s hard to describe it in words, but you know it when you see it,” Schwallier said. “I don’t have the right words to describe it, but we’ve all seen it, and we all know what’s in it now.”