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MOUNT VERNON — Crystal Eskelsen had a lot of questions coming into this season.
The Mount Vernon girls’ tennis coach graduated half of the lineup from the squad that won the first Wamac conference title in school history.
Five duals in, and it appears the Mustangs are building on last year’s breakthrough.
“Definitely the success of the program breeds more success,” Eskelsen said after Mount Vernon thwarted longtime conference power Western Dubuque, 7-2, in a conference dual Monday at the Cornell College tennis courts. “The kids want to be part of it. … We try to get better every time. The focus is not to go through the season undefeated. … We want to see them improving.”
Mount Vernon (5-0) is led by the patient leadership of senior Wynne Vandersall, who is playing her second season at No. 1 singles and was a Class 1A doubles state qualifier last year.
Fellow seniors Brittney Darrow and Katie Wycoff were elevated from the bottom of the 2016 lineup to spots two and three with considerable success.
“We’re definitely getting better,” Vandersall said. “Everyone is working really hard in practice and I think we’re really focusing a lot more this year on improving each day.”
The bottom half of the order — which at various times has included seniors Grace Pelley, Paige Pospisil, Bianca Kladivo, Jessica Barske and junior Amanda Dragon — has afforded Eskelsen a lot of flexibility without sacrificing improvement.
Western Dubuque — which departs for the Mississippi Valley Conference after this school year — has long been the dominant program in Wamac girls’ tennis, but has considerable ground to make up if it is going to reclaim the conference title, which will be decided May 2 at Maquoketa.
“They’re really good and they’ll probably always be good,” Vandersall said. “That’s just even more motivation. It’s nice to play against a really good team, so you get a battle in the conference tournament, which is fun.”
AT MOUNT VERNON
Mount Vernon 7, Western Dubuque 2
Singles — Wynne Vandersall (MV) def. Morgan Hefel, 8-1; Brittney Darrow (MV) def. Katelyn Becker, 8-6; Katie Wycoff (MV) def. Samantha Kruse, 8-2; Grace Pelley (MV) def. Kaitlyn Clemen, 8-6; Ally Besler (WD) def. Paige Pospisil, 8-4; Bianca Kladivo (MV) def. Brinnley Breitbach, 8-6.
Doubles — Darrow/Wycoff (MV) def. Hefel/Becker, 8-4; Vandersall/Pelley (MV) def. Kruse/Clemen, 8-0; Breitbach/Besler (WD) def. Kladivo/Jessica Barske, 8-3.
WEST, WASH, LINN-MAR BOYS TOP 2A POLL
For the third week in a row, area schools Iowa City West, Cedar Rapids Washington and Linn-Mar claimed the top three spots in the Iowa Tennis Coaches Class 2A boys’ tennis rankings.
All three teams are undefeated, with the Trojans and Lions each having multiple wins over top-10 teams.
The Mississippi Valley Conference powers will get a chance to sort things out over the next two weeks. No. 3 Linn-Mar hosts second-ranked Washington this Saturday, while top-ranked West entertains the Lions April 25 and visits the Warriors four days later.
PRAIRIE PAIR PICK COLLEGES
Cedar Rapids Prairie seniors Vale Caro and Karleigh Schlling were instrumental in helping the Hawks cap an undefeated 2016 season with the school’s first 2A girls’ tennis team state championship.
Now, both are set to continue their tennis careers at the collegiate level.
At a ceremony last Wednesday at Prairie High School, Caro signed with the University of Northern Iowa, while Schilling made her commitment to Central College in Pella official.
The Hawks (3-1) host undefeated Iowa City West (7-0) Tuesday at 4 p.m.
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