116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Cedar Rapids Xavier won two more state tennis titles here Saturday using a fire and ice approach.
The fire came in the Class 1A doubles final where Saints seniors Ally Burger and Courtney Carstensen defended their title with a dominating 6-1, 6-2 victory over Ella Diluilo and Allison Halligan of Davenport Assumption.
Ella Tallett was the ice part for the Xavier double. She found ways to counteract the unorthodox style of Shenandoah’s Le Yuan Sun en route to a 6-3, 6-2 triumph in the singles final.
Saints Coach Matt Foxhoven couldn’t come up with the right words to describe the dual state titles for his top three players.
“This is what they worked for all year,” he said. “We were right in this situation last year where we lost an epic singles match in the final. This year we were able to come out on top, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Burger and Christensen, who advanced to the final with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Decorah’s Mara Holland and Annalise Skrade in Saturday morning play, got off to a bit of a slow start against the Knights’ pair, actually trailing 2-1 in the first set.
Then the power game that has been their trademark came to the front. They consistently overpowered the Assumption duo at the net, finishing the title match in just over an hour.
After the final point was secured, Burger and Carstensen could not contain their joy.
“It just doesn’t feel real,” Burger said. “This year was a lot harder, trying to go back-to-back. There was a lot of pressure.”
Carstensen said the key all year was not taking anything for granted.
“We put in the work this year and this last week especially in doubles,” Carstensen said. “Today, I think playing in the wind really helped us. We’re used to playing in the wind so we knew how to adjust our shots.”
Foxhoven was impressed with the way the duo stuck to their game.
“Courtney can really step into that ball and punish it,” he said. “They balance each other really well. Ally is so active, and when Courtney hits that big ball she is ready to pounce.”
It was a different story in the singles final. Tallett, who advanced to the final with a 6-4, 6-0 semifinal win over Alli Hagness of Waterloo Columbus, had to contend with Sun’s strategy of hitting a number of slicing shots.
“She moves you around,” Foxhoven said of Sun. “In a way that played into Ella’s game a little bit. Ella wants to move and hitting the floating ball didn’t bother her as much.”
For all of Xavier’s tennis success, Tallett is the first girls’ singles state champion in school history.
“It was just a sense of relief to have won,” she said. “It’s really cool to be a part of school history and, honestly, I’m most excited about getting my picture up on the wall (of the high school).”
The Saints have one final piece of business yet to complete. They are the top seed for the team tournament June 1 at Waveland Tennis Center in Des Moines. They are the defending two-time state champion.
“We’ll take a little time to enjoy this,” Burger said, “but we want to finish the year off right and win that title.”
Decorah’s Holland and Skrade finished fourth, losing to Chloe Butler and Avery Hogan of Waterloo Columbus, 6-2, 6-2, in the consolation match.