CEDAR RAPIDS — When the Class 1A boys’ district tennis pairings came out, Xavier Coach Jim Potts wasn’t pleased.
He also wasn’t surprised.
For the third consecutive year, the second-ranked Saints and top-ranked Dubuque Wahlert have been placed in the same district. In 2017, the Saints edged Wahlert in the substate final en route to a state title. Last year, the Golden Eagles turned the tables, winning in the substate final before going on to take the state title.
“I’m really not very happy about both of our teams being in the same district,” Potts said. “No other sport anywhere would do that. It’s like putting Duke and North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
“Having said that, I’m not surprised that we are in the same district. We’ve been in the same district for quite some time and, quite frankly, I think it is just easier for the state to not make any changes regardless of rankings or records.”
Before they reach that point, both teams have to navigate through district play. It all begins around the state at 9 a.m. Friday after, thanks to Wednesday’s predicted rain, at districts. Champions and runners-up in singles and doubles qualify for the individual state tournament, set for May 24-25 in Waterloo for Class 1A and Cedar Rapids for 2A. Each team can place two individuals in the singles draw and two teams in the doubles field. No player can play singles and doubles.
District team champions are determined by points, three points for a doubles win, two for a singles victory. District champions advance directly to the substate round on May 18. Second- and third-place teams at districts play each other in a preliminary substate match this Saturday with that winner advancing. After districts, the team format returns to the traditional dual meet schedule with six singles matches and three doubles matches.
Wahlert will host Friday’s district meet. The winning team will avoid playing in Saturday’s preliminary substate match, advancing directly to the May 18 substate meet in Waterloo against the two qualifiers from the Waverly-Shell Rock district.
Wahlert topped Xavier, 5-4, in their regular dual last month. The difference in the match was at No. 6 singles where the Golden Eagles’ Mitchell Pregler topped Xavier’s Ethan Shimak in a third-set tiebreaker.
“Making it back to state will be tough,” Potts said. “We have to play well at districts to get the team and hopefully some individuals to state. It is never easy.
“I don’t think the format for districts favors either team. Both us and Wahlert have good singles and doubles teams so it will depend on how the kids play that day.”
There is a clear path to state for the top four teams in Class 2A as Iowa City West, Pleasant Valley, Cedar Rapids Washington and Waukee have been placed in separate districts.
No. 1 West and No. 2 PV will host districts Friday. No. 3 Washington will travel to Ames while No. 4 Waukee will be playing at Johnston.
“It looks as if the (Iowa High School Athletic Association) did an outstanding job with district team placement,” said Warriors Coach Rusty Graff. “Having to travel is not a big deal. I’m confident that the team will give its best effort wherever we play.”
A district win would send Washington back to Des Moines on May 18 for a substate at West Des Moines Dowling.
Graff said the defending state doubles championship team of Rami Scheetz and Ty Sherman would not be defending their title. He didn’t indicate if both would be playing singles or if one would have another doubles partner. Among those who could be in the singles draw at districts is defending state champion Timmy Ellis from Ames.
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“We decided before the season even began that those two were going to challenge themselves in different ways this year,” Graff said. “Timmy is a great player and well-respected by our whole team. Whatever he decides to do doesn’t really affect our decision making. In order to be the best you must defeat the best.”