By CONOR NICHOLL
Fort Hays State University junior No. 1 player Camille Caron-Bedard is ranked No. 10 in the ITA Central Region rankings. She carries a 7-4 singles record, the lone Tiger above .500 in singles play.
During spring break, Caron-Bedard suffered a foot injury in practice and has missed the last three matches. Last weekend, the Tigers easily defeated Lincoln (Mo.) University and didn't win a match against Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University, the low and high ends of the MIAA.
"She wasn't even running," coach Brian Flax said. "She was just moving around, getting in position to hit and her foot kind of buckled toward the inside, and she sprained some ligaments on the inside of her foot."
On Saturday, Fort Hays faced Lindenwood (Mo.) University, a team comparable to the Tigers, at the FHSU Courts. Fort Hays fell 7-2 against the Lions, a squad with all international players.
"They were preseason picked right above us," Flax said. "Just kind of disappointing that we couldn't go at them with everybody, but really proud of the young kids. We are throwing four freshmen out there against kids that are getting highly paid to come play tennis."
FHSU moved to 6-6, 2-3 MIAA, while Lindenwood improved to 4-5, 1-2. Flax is hoping Caron-Bedard returns for next weekend's road matches at University of Central Oklahoma and Northeastern (Okla.) State University, but isn't for sure.
On singles, Flax moved everyone up a spot to replace Caron-Bedard. Junior Brittney Ricci won 7-5, 6-0 at No. 1 singles and also combined with freshman Katie Hipp to win 8-6 at No. 1 doubles. Ricci had played at No. 2 doubles with Hipp, but with the injury, they have had to move up to No. 1.
"Brittney is a really intense player, and Katie stepped up to that intensity," Flax said. "It's a really good fit. I really like having Katie with Brittney."
In singles, Ricci trailed 5-4 in the first set and then won nine straight games.
"She is mentally tough, and never considers herself down and out," Flax said. "She just battled through that first set and then took charge the rest of the match."
Fort Hays was close in several other matches. At No. 3 singles, Hipp lost 6-4, 6-2. At No. 5 singles, freshman Raven Dick fell 6-2, 6-4 and at No. 6 singles, junior Michelle Miller lost 6-1, 7-5.
"Those young kids are really battling out there," Flax said.
Fort Hays was supposed to play McPherson College on Saturday afternoon, but McPherson canceled because of a couple of reasons. In Flax's last communication with the Bulldogs, McPherson said its athletic director wasn't letting them come because of budget. On Friday, Flax told the team to look at the cancellation as a positive.
"This time of the year with Cami out, we've got a lot of nagging injuries going on, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing." Flax said.