116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ANKENY — As Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Avery Link and Ella Tallett were walking on the court for the Class 1A girls’ state team tennis tournament, Link asked Tallett, “Are you ready?”
Tallett responded, matter-of-factly, “Yeah.”
Tallett was ready. She beat Waterloo Columbus’ Alli Hagness in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3 in the No. 5 singles match.
In fact, that’s how many of the matches went between Xavier and Columbus in the 1A finals in Ankeny. Xavier won, 5-1.
No. 2 Courtney Carstensen beat Chloe Butler 6-2, 6-2.
No. 3 Ally Burger beat Bre Phillips 6-0, 6-1.
No. 4 Gabby Flynn won by injury default when her opponent Avery Hogan couldn’t get a bloody nose to stop.
The only matches that weren’t decidedly Xavier were the No. 1 singles match and No. 6.
Xavier’s No. 1 Miyako Coffey lost to Columbus’ Sasha Hyacinth 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
If Xavier wanted to end the meet early and not play doubles, its hopes rested on Link, a freshman.
That’s when the question became, was she ready?
She let her play do the talking, but if it could speak, it was a matter-of-fact, “Yeah.”
Everyone at the Prairie Ridge Sports Complex was gathered at court six to cheer Link, or her opponent Sophia Fain.
“I went out to her when she was up 4-3 in the second set and asked her, ‘Hey, do you like all these people here?’” Xavier Coach Matt Foxhoven said. “And she said, ‘Yeah, this is pretty cool.’ She thrives on this. That’s how she is.”
During the conversation, Link gave an excited smile toward the fans.
She won the next two games to win her match 7-6 (7-3), 6-3. It also won the team title for Xavier — her teammates rushed the court to celebrate.
“I personally thought it was awesome,” Link said. “It really showed just how much the team cares for each and every person.”
The moment could’ve been too big for the freshman.
“I don’t know if I’d rather have anyone else out there in that moment,” Foxhoven said. “All year she has been the one who likes that moment and wants to be in that moment.”
And Link did enjoy being in that moment, too.
“I was so excited,” Link said of her feelings before the championship point. “But then I told myself, I need to focus and get this done for the team.”
Xavier had two seniors — Coffey and Flynn — and the rest were juniors. Link was the only underclassman.
“I draw so much inspiration from the older girls,” Link said. “It’s awesome having great leaders and they really inspired me to work hard over the offseason and they were really inspiring me to work hard so I could get this spot on this team, so we could do something this awesome.”
That veteran leadership allowed Link to thrive in the biggest moment.
“We’ve had some individual titles, we won a team title two years ago and the girls have always known that the team title is really the big one,” Foxhoven said. “We’ve set the standard that we’re not going to put anybody above the team and when it comes down to it, they all want this one.”