IOWA CITY — A slight format change should result in a better quality of tennis for the girls’ state team championships.
In the past, the team tournament was held the day after completion of the individual singles and doubles championships. That required many of the state’s top players to play a lot of tennis in a short period of time.
This year, a day was placed between the meets, allowing the players time to recover. That is especially important this year after two days of high temperatures during the singles and doubles championships.
Cedar Rapids Xavier will be the No. 3 seed in the Class 1A meet at Waterloo. The Saints will face No. 2 seed Pella in the semifinals. Iowa City West is seeded No. 1 for the 2A tournament in Iowa City and will play No. 4 West Des Moines Dowling in the semifinals.
The meets begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with championship and consolation matches set for 2 p.m.
Xavier and West had their top players in action on Wednesday and Thursday. The coaches were happy to have Friday as an off day.
“It’s huge to have that extra day,” said Xavier Coach Matt Foxhoven, whose top doubles team, Nina Marquardt and Emily Jasper, finished fourth. “A couple years ago we had players in singles and doubles make it and by the third day in a row, they were pretty worn down. It’s nice to have a day to rest up and have a practice with all the girls together one more time.”
West’s Emma and Audrey Koch won the 2A doubles title, playing four matches over two days. However, West’s No. 3 player, sophomore Jessica Moonjely, played three matches on Wednesday and two more on Thursday en route to an eighth-place finish.
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“There is always concern about their physical stamina after two grueling days of tennis in the heat,” said West Coach Amie Villarini. “We had this issue last year when we were playing back-to-back-to-back.
“Last year, there were so many players on a lot of teams dropping out due to heat exhaustion or cramping. We all got together as coaches and said it was too much and we asked for the extra day.”
Xavier brings a 17-2 record into its match against Pella (13-0). The Saints’ only losses came to West (7-2) and five-time defending 1A champion Waterloo Columbus (5-4) on May 2. Columbus (11-0) is the top seed and a heavy favorite to defend the title yet again.
The individual records for the Saints’ players aren’t as glossy as some because of the tough competition they play regularly in Mississippi Valley Conference against a number of 2A schools. Foxhoven sees pros and cons to the numbers.
“The girls would much rather have better records,” he said. “Looking back to playing against teams like West, they are loaded and that is a positive for us because we are tested in every match. The tough thing is learning how to win when you have close matches we don’t win. These 1A teams at state are used to being on the winning side so it is a balancing act.”
Xavier gave Columbus its biggest test of the year, but Foxhoven said the team’s focus is strictly on Pella.
“They need to be priority No. 1,” he said. “If we don’t beat them, we won’t get a shot at Columbus. If we get past the semifinals, then we can look back at what happened the first time.”
West has been a powerhouse all season. The Women of Troy are 18-0 and a heavy favorite to take the team title.
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“We’re not done yet,” Emma Koch said. “We still have work to do to finish out this season.”
The Kochs are unbeaten in singles play this year. Moonjely was unbeaten before the state tournament and freshman Caroline Chandler is undefeated in the No. 5 singles position.
Girls' state team tennis tournament
At Hawkeye Recreation and Tennis Center, Iowa City
9 a.m. - No. 1 Iowa City West vs. No. 4 West Des Moines Dowling
9 a.m. - No. 2 Pleasant Valley vs. No. 3 Ames
Consolation and championship matches begin at 2 p.m.
At Byrnes Park, Waterloo
9 a.m. - No. 1 Waterloo Columbus vs. No. 4 Glenwood
9 a.m. - No. 2 Pella vs. No. 3 Cedar Rapids Xavier
Note: Consolation and championship matches begin at 2 p.m.