CEDAR RAPIDS - Significant tennis accolades are often the byproduct of substantial individual focus.
But with the Iowa City West boys' tennis team, a team-first demeanor has produced glory for all.
The top-ranked Trojans (12-0, 9-0 Missi ... »
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The expectations were lofty, but the South Winneshiek Warriors have been pleasantly surprised by what they have accomplished.
The memorable season has included a 32-1 mark, winning the first 18 games, and an Upper Iowa Conference title. Work remains for it to end the way they hoped.
“We had some big goals to start the season,” South Winneshiek Coach Ben Obermann said. “The guys have a few goals left this season and I think with our team, if we keep focusing on one game at a time, our dreams are going to be a possibility.”
Eighth-ranked South Winneshiek will face host New Hampton for the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 2A district 9 championship Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. The Warriors beat the Chickasaws, 17-10, on July 5.
South Winn returned a lot of experience from a conference runner-up that won 26 games last year.
“We were ready for a good year,” Senior Trevor Schweinefus said. “I don’t think any of us really guessed what kind of year it has been.
“From the start, our goal has been to get down to state, but we’ve bought into our coach’s message to take it one pitch, one inning, one game at a time.”
The potential for this season came into focus during a June tournament at Upper Iowa in Fayette. In a game against Clayton Ridge/Central, South Winn gave up five runs and fell behind 7-2 late. The Warriors responded with an eight-run inning and won 10-7.
“Our guys don’t quit and that is what makes you think you have a chance to keep winning,” said Obermann, who is in his second year as Warriors head coach and fourth overall on staff. “It doesn’t matter the score they are very resilient. They handle adversity very well and they keep competing from one pitch to the next.”
Pitching has been a strength this season. The deep and seasoned staff allows them to compete with anyone, according to Obermann. Schweinefus (8-1) and senior Wyatt Opperman (8-0) are tied for the team lead in wins. Jared Schroeder and Jordan Rommes are both 5-0.
The Warriors are tied for seventh in 2A with 93 runs allowed, and tied for ninth with a 2.16 team earned-run average.
“Our pitching keeps us in every game,” Obermann said. “They attack the strike zone and we’re able to strike guys out at times … it has helped us win games down the stretch.”
Schweinefus, Schroeder and junior Christian Kleve were voted team captains and have served as leaders. Schweinefus, an all-district and all-conference selection last year, has been a perfect fit for the role.
“He is very composed,” Obermann said. “Guys follow him because he knows how to handle himself on the mound and in big situations. Nothing really gets to him.”
Rommes has led the South Winn offense, hitting .515 this season. He sets the tone at the plate.
“He leads by example in how he approaches the game,” Obermann said. “He’s very talented. When he’s hitting it well, it seems like the rest of the guys are hitting well.”
The Warriors have suffered tough postseason defeats the last two years, dropping extra-inning games. Two years ago, they squandered a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to North Fayette. Sumner-Fredericksburg clipped them, 2-1, last season in eight.
The current players had some role for those two teams. They don’t talk about those losses, but they plan to learn from those instances.
“I don’t think we need any extra motivation for our goals,” Schweinefus said. “It comes into everybody’s minds. Anything can happen and you have to play a full game and can’t let up any time.”
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