116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ANKENY – Iowa City West boys' tennis coach Mitch Gross says Tuesday's team state tournament promises to be bittersweet.
Sure, there is the business of trying to extend an unprecedented three-year string of team state championships in Class 2A. What has Gross feeling wistful, however, is the fact that it will be his last chance to coach David DiLeo.
'I don't know if there has been a better kid to have coached in the last four years,” Gross said. 'A better gamer, a kid who puts everything on the line, leaves everything on the court, does it with class, does it with integrity.”
The 6-foot-7 senior has been a fixture on all three Trojan tennis team state champions. DiLeo played this season at No. 2 singles and lost just twice, the second being to teammate Jiung Jung in Saturday's singles state title match. Include his key contributions to West's last two basketball state championships, and you would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished team winner than DiLeo.
'I've had a really fun time, a really great career,” said DiLeo, who also won a doubles state championship in 2014. 'It's not over and I hope we can get it on Tuesday. I'm really excited.”
DiLeo and second-seed West (14-1) open with a 2A semifinal against Waukee at Prairie Ridge Sports Complex, while No. 1 seed Linn-Mar (17-0) faces Fort Dodge. Despite losing four of its top six singles players, West is back in the 2A semifinals for the fifth year in a row.
'I feel like we're pretty prepared,” DiLeo said. 'We met Linn-Mar in the state final last year, so both teams have been there before. We've got a really tough match in Waukee first. We played them very early in the year, beat them, but all matches were tight.”
Should both West and Linn-Mar advance to Tuesday's final, it sets the stage for another chapter in what has become arguably the best tennis rivalry in the state. West defeated Linn-Mar in last season's final, 5-2.
'We've been looking at this day since last year,” Linn-Mar Coach Chris Wundram said.
On May 8, Linn-Mar won the Valley Division of the Mississippi Valley Conference and snapped West's 68-dual win streak in a tight, intensely-played 5-4 victory. The Lions won three singles matches at the bottom of their lineup and claimed two doubles, the clincher in a third-set tiebreaker.
'My guys have answered every bell, they've answered every challenge,” Wundram said. 'We're confident, but we're not overconfident. We know what we have to do.”
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