Lafayette sophomore Caroline Pozo enjoyed more than a tennis season to remember. She had one for the record books.
Pozo won the Missouri State High School Class 2 singles championship. She won all four of her matches at state without losing a set – no opponent earned more than five games off her.
Pozo finished her sensational season with a 24-0 singles record. Amazingly, she did not lose a set all season.
However, Pozo remains modest and downright humble when evaluating her year.
“It was a great season, and I joined a team with amazing girls, which made it even better,” Pozo said.
Lafayette coach Donna Stauffer was a bit more expansive.
“It’s the most dominant season we have ever had and it is doubtful there are many other players who can compare with that record,” Stauffer said. “When you add in her doubles record, she was 43 wins and one loss overall.”
As a freshman, Pozo played for the St. Joseph’s Academy Angels. She finished second in state singles play with the Angels.
She transferred to Lafayette this year.
“I found out last May that Caroline was registering at Lafayette for her sophomore year and wanted her to continue playing high school tennis,” Stauffer said. “I was very excited that Caroline would be joining our team. I had watched her play several times the previous season and in tournaments and knew she already was an extraordinary player and that she would continue to grow. It also changed the possibilities for our team this season.
“We had lost our No. 1, No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5 players from last season, and I felt this would be a rebuilding year. Having Caroline join our team gave us more depth and more strength at the top of our lineup so we could be competitive against any team.”
Pozo quickly fit in with her new teammates.
“I felt like a Lancer the first day I went to practice,” Pozo said. “Everyone was very welcoming and very nice.”
After a first-round bye in the district, Pozo scored a 6-2, 6-2 win over Emily Terrebonne, of Marquette; a 6-0, 6-0 win over Sydnee Yap, of Parkway West; and a 6-2, 6-1 win over Claire Martin, of Parkway West.
“Caroline dominated in these matches and played very tough, both mentally and physically,” Stauffer said of the district tournament.
In the individual sectional tournament, Pozo played Elena Wilner, of Parkway Central, and won 7-6, 7-5.
Pozo noted it was a grueling match.
“She (Wilner) played very well and again it was windy and cold, which aren’t my favorite conditions,” Pozo said. “It was not my best day but I just had to stay positive and persevere. I was very excited to go back and I felt a little more confident going into the tournament.”
Then came the Class 2 state singles at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
“Caroline was very focused and was mentally ready for the challenge,” Stauffer said. “She was excited about the opportunity to compete at state. It helped in that she was familiar with the format and was comfortable with the situation. Our discussions centered around what she needed to do to play her best.”
Certainly, Pozo played her best and that resulted in a state championship.
In the championship match, Pozo got past former state champion Risa Takenaka, of Francis Howell North, 6-4, 6-1.
“I was confident going into the match because I had beaten her the last two times I played her and I knew how to play her and was confident in my strokes, but I struggled with some nerves at the beginning of the match,” Pozo said.
Stauffer was confident Pozo had the skill to win.
“To win against Risa, Caroline knew she had to be patient and set up her shots because Risa covers the court extremely well,” Stauffer said. “Caroline played very smart.”
When it was over, Pozo immediately thought of the medal ceremony to come.
“I was thinking about how good it felt to come back from getting second last year to being on the top of the podium,” Pozo said. “And I was thinking how I wished my brother could have been here with me. He was playing his own match at SIU Carbondale and he won, too.”
Her brother, Alex, is a CBC graduate and a freshman for the Salukis. He was a four-year state championship qualifier.