116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Just two weeks before the start of girls' tennis practice, defending state champion Cedar Rapids Washington was scrambling to find a coach.
Elizabeth Bertrand, who led the Warriors to a sparkling 20-0 record and a Class 2A team state title last season, decided not to return for the 2015 season.
In her place stepped Washington alum Spencer Eells, who coached the Washington boys' tennis team from 2001-06.
'We were really surprised,” senior Lilly Hartman said. 'Obviously, coming off a state championship. But changes happen, and we're really happy that we were able to get Spencer.”
Eells, who captained the Iowa State men's tennis team from 1986-87, has been tennis director at Elmcrest Country Club for the past 12 years. While Eells expects this to be a one-year interim position, the fit seemed natural given that eight of the top 10 players in Washington's lineup had received his instruction at Elmcrest.
'It just worked out so well that I knew so many of the girls,” Eells said. 'Obviously it's a great team. They've got so many back.”
The Warriors are led by Hartman, who is a three-time state qualifier between singles and doubles and the 2013 Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division Athlete of the Year. Sophomores Hannah Sherman and Kelly King return after fantastic freshmen seasons that saw both qualify for the 2A singles state tournament. Sherman remains the No. 2 singles player for Washington, while King slides into the third spot.
Both are motivated after early individual state tournament exits.
'My game has come a long way in a year,” Sherman said. 'This year I hope to improve even more. I think I've become a lot more mentally tough. I let a lot less faze me.”
Senior Jennifer Greif has the fourth singles slot locked down, while five and six are up for grabs. The doubles tandems also are a work in progress, though early indications are Hartman and Sherman could fill the top doubles role.
'We just have to keep working hard and getting better every day,” Hartman said. 'Obviously we had a great season last year, and we're hoping to have an even better one this year.”
The area boys' teams are led by three-time defending state champion Iowa City West. The Trojans must replace four of their top six singles players, a group that won an incredible 54 consecutive matches and finished their four-year prep career 72-1 as a team.
West figures to receive a stiff challenge in the MVC from state runner-up Linn-Mar, which returns nine of its top 10 players.
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