Prep Sports

Linn-Mar storms back to win boys' state tennis team championship

Lions sweep doubles matches to beat Iowa City West, 5-4

ANKENY — Linn-Mar’s No. 1 doubles team was the last team on the court Tuesday at the Iowa state tennis meet finals.

They were in a three-set battle with Iowa City West. Each team had won four matches and it came down to the ninth and decisive match. The two teams had met in the finals three times since 2014 before the fourth meeting in Ankeny. West had won two, Linn-Mar won one.

But Linn-Mar’s team of Luke Van Donslear and Zach Glanz won their marathon match, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Van Donslear, a sophomore, dropped to the court after the final point and stared up at the lights with a smile he couldn’t wipe off his face. Glanz pumped his fist an uncountable amount of times.

“It’s awesome,” Van Donslear said. “I don’t have any words to describe it. It’s an awesome feeling.”

Linn-Mar came back from the early 4-2 deficit and swept doubles, winning the state team tennis meet, 5-4.

The finals weren’t short on drama. West jumped out to the early two-match lead after the singles matches. West just needed to win one doubles match.

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Linn-Mar Coach Chris Wundram swept doubles only once in his 12-year career as coach. So he took a risk and shuffled his doubles lineup to try and get his second-ever sweep.

“Our doubles lineup hasn’t been working as well as we would’ve liked the last couple of meets,” Wundram said. “We thought this might give us a more competitive doubles line up.”

And his decision paid off early. Linn-Mar’s No. 2 doubles team of Ben Hediger and Jackson Eells won quickly, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6).

Both No. 1 and No. 3 doubles team, which consisted of Lucas Huffman and Jack Gertsen, won easily 6-2 and 6-3, respectively, in the first set.

But then West came storming back.

Both of West’s teams — the No. 1 team of Sam Shin and Sasha Chackalackal and the No. 3 team of Brad DiLeo and Eli Young — took victory in the second set. And then the rain started.

So, everyone had to pack their bags, lawn chairs, tailgate tents and water and head to Aspen Athletic Club in Clive.

On the 30-minute drive over, Linn-Mar hit the reset button and got back on track. No. 1 doubles took care of business and No. 3 doubles won 6-4, 6-7 (7-2), 6-3.

“I think coming over here actually helped us a lot,” Gertsen said. “It calmed us down, cooled us off. The fans, you can’t hear them. It’s just us and them.”

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It was a roller coaster of a day for Wundram, who was almost at a loss for words at times after the meet.

“Our theme this year has been, ‘It’s just us,’” Wundrum said. “We’ve handled some adversity this year — nothing like today. But you can’t give up on these guys. These guys will fight until the very last point — they proved that today.

“I’ve got a senior class that is absolutely incredible. They weren’t going to let anybody beat them today — that’s plain and simple. It shows the fortitude they had.”

For Gertsen and Huffman, it all felt familiar. They were on the 2015 team when Linn-Mar beat West for the state championship. Wundram said they and the other seniors have had, without a doubt, the best four-year run in Linn-Mar history. Gertsen and Huffman were on the No. 3 doubles team as freshmen, and again as seniors, thanks to Wundram’s lineup change.

They made the most of it.

“It’s kind of like destiny,” Gertsen said.

Over the last four years, Linn-Mar and West are tied 2-2 in the state team tennis finals.

“West has been a phenomenal team over the years, and it’s nice to be able to match them,” Wundram said. “It’s incredibly tough to beat them. We knew we had to come out here — and it sounds cliche — give everything we had and maybe even a little more. I don’t know if any of us could play any more today. Gosh, it feels good.”

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