Prep Sports

Iowa high school tennis players itching to get back on court

Like most spring sports, weather has dampened 2018 season

Washington's Ty Sherman hits a backhand shot during singles play with Prairie's Joseph Schmitt at a high school boys' dual at Westfield Tennis Club in Cedar Rapids earlier this month. Outdoor meets have been few and far between. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Washington's Ty Sherman hits a backhand shot during singles play with Prairie's Joseph Schmitt at a high school boys' dual at Westfield Tennis Club in Cedar Rapids earlier this month. Outdoor meets have been few and far between. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Playing in chilly conditions is nothing new for high school tennis players in Iowa.

Trying to play in subfreezing temperatures on courts covered with snow and ice is a different story all together.

As the season approaches its scheduled halfway point, the frustration level over the unseasonable conditions this spring has heightened for all involved.

“We have only played once, against Prairie on April 10,” Kennedy girls’ coach Erin Seely said on Monday. “I have a great group of girls who are just anxious to play. I think the back and forth anticipation of playing or not playing is frustrating for them.”

A look at Quik Stats Iowa shows no varsity team, boys or girls, has played more than six matches as of Monday, with many playing just two or three times. Countless canceled JV meets just add to the building backlog.

“On Thursday of last week, we played against a team (Oelwein) that was playing their first meet of the year,” said Decorah girls’ coach Larry Berland. “The weather isn’t fair across the state. Those from the southern tier of the state haven’t been impacted nearly as much with snow and cold temps.”

With significant snow in the forecast for Decorah on Wednesday, Berland said the Vikings' schedule is facing more changes.

Mississippi Valley Conference teams traditionally play two conference meets on Saturdays. Two Saturdays of meets already have been impacted by the weather, leaving coaches and athletics directors scrambling to find dates to reschedule.

“We lost both meets last Saturday in Dubuque (against Senior and Hempstead),” said Washington boys’ coach Rusty Graff. “We hosted a tournament that a majority of the teams wanted to play on April 7 when the weather was very cold.

“Now we have to travel on separate school days to make up those matches (in Dubuque).”

Iowa City West girls’ Coach Amiee Villarini has two Saturdays worth of MVC meets to reschedule, but the Women of Troy have been more fortunate than most teams when it comes to practicing.

“We are lucky to be right across the street from the HRTC Hawkeye Tennis Center so we have been able to hold (indoor) practices,” she said. “The problem is that we aren’t practicing outdoor in the elements so we aren’t used to the conditions when we go outside for matches.”

For the most part, the coaches agree the players have suffered some with the lack of normal practice conditions.

“I think the quality of play has suffered a bit,” said Marion boys’ coach Jonathan Mitchell. “The players seem a bit slower to get to the ball as well as having some timing issues hitting the ball.

“That said, our players have been extremely flexible to last-second changes to practices and meets.”

Graff summed up the feeling of the entire high school tennis community.

“I’m hopeful we will turn the corner and finally get some quality tennis-playing weather sooner rather than later,” he said.

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