116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — With six of seven players slated to return from last season's team, Iowa City West's girls’ tennis team was primed for another run at a state title.
The Trojans won the Class 2A state crown in 2018, finished second in 2019 and took third last season (the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19).
That all changed when eight players who contributed to West's state run last June elected not to play this season.
“Sadly, (eight) of the nine returning letterwinners have decided not to go out for tennis this year for their own personal reasons,” West Coach Amie Villarini wrote in an email to the media that accompanied her season information sheet. “Unfortunately, there are no returning starters this season.”
Those eturning include junior Ella DeYoung, who finished eighth at state in singles and was the Mississippi Valley Conference player of the year. Also not playing are senior Caroline Mascardo and junior Jay Mascardo. The sisters took fourth at state in doubles and were named the MVC doubles team of the year.
Three others who saw varsity action — juniors Zola Gross and Lydia Shin, along with sophomore Lilly Graham — are not playing in 2022. Maggie Shin and Mohana Sunkara also have left the team.
By the comments in her email, it appears Villarini, in her 10th season with a 128-21 record, was holding out hope some of the players might choose to play.
“Sorry (I have) been late to respond to you,” she wrote in the email sent last Saturday. “I wasn't sure what my roster was until the end of the week.”
Schools were able to start practice on March 14. Meets started Monday. West's first meet is scheduled for Saturday at home against Western Dubuque.
West activities director Craig Huegel confirmed the six letterwinners elected to not play this spring, but when asked for further explanation, Villarini and Huegel offered no additional comment.
The only returning player with varsity experience is senior Lindsey Henkenius. Others expected to play on the varsity this season include sophomores Anna Vasi, Claire Hahn and Jane Lam, along with freshman Marie Stier.
“I have had to develop and build a new team this week searching for JV players to bump up to varsity level,” Villarini wrote. “It will be a rebuilding year and I look forward to developing the players that we have out this season.
“We are a young, inexperienced team. The returning letterwinners have shown great improvement and I have confidence they will compete well. It will be a challenge for us but we will be competitive.”
Teams to watch
Cedar Rapids Washington — Coach Brandon Hornback has three strong players back at the top of the lineup from a 13-4 team that is ranked No. 3 in the preseason Class 2A poll. Junior Kathryn Zylstra went 14-3 at No. 1 singles while sophomore Katelynn Kock won 16 matches at No. 2 singles. The duo combined for a third-place finish in the Class 2A doubles tournament. Senior Liberty Wickham contributed double-digit wins at No. 3 and combined with 2021 graduate Josie Norris to play in the state 2A double tournament. Sophomore Mya Messenger, junior Chloe Palmer and senior Carli Cooper all contributed as well last season.
Cedar Rapids Xavier — The two-time defending Class 1A state champions are primed for a three-peat in 2022. Coach Matt Foxhoven's team, ranked No. 1 in the preseason 1A poll, returns four of the top six players from last year's title team, led by seniors Courtney Carstensen and Ally Burger. That duo won the state doubles title. Senior Ella Tallett and sophomore Avery Link took third in doubles. With No. 1 singles player Miyako Coffey gone, it could be either Carstensen or Burger's time to shine in singles. “The biggest concern would be replacing the two seniors we lost, one of which held down the No. 1 spot for multiple years,” Foxhoven said. “Finding consistency from the No. 1 spot will be a big thing for our team this year.”
Players to watch
Ally Burger, Cedar Rapids Xavier, sr. — Won Class 1A doubles title in 2021 with Courtney Carstensen. Finished 17-2 in singles and 14-0 in doubles
Courtney Carstensen, Cedar Rapids Xavier, sr. — Won Class 1A doubles title in 2021 with Ally Burger. Finished 14-0 in doubles and 17-3 in singles
Ella Gilbert, Iowa City Liberty, soph. — State qualifier in 2021. Finished with a 10-5 singles record.
Sarah Dockery-Jackson, Iowa City High, sr. — State meet qualifier in 2021
Katelynn Kock, Cedar Rapids Washington, soph. — Finished third in Class 2A state doubles in 2021
Avery Link, Cedar Rapids Xavier, soph. — Finished third in Class 1A doubles in 2021
Ella Tallett, Cedar Rapids Xavier, sr. — Finished third in Class 1A doubles in 2021
Kathryn Zylstra, Cedar Rapids Washington, jr. — Third in Class 2A state doubles in 2021