CEDAR RAPIDS — The Xavier boys’ tennis program has established itself as one of the top Class 1A programs in Iowa over the past few years.
With a state team championship in 2017 and Jon Lansing winning individual singles gold last year after combining with Charlie Esker to win a doubles title the previous year, the Saints have a solid tradition.
“Having had success in tennis the past few years has really helped our program,” said Xavier Coach Jim Potts. “The goal from our players for the past four or five years has been to get Xavier recognized as a good tennis school. I think we have done that.”
The thing is, you don’t hear much about Xavier until the postseason. As a member of the Mississippi Valley Conference, the Saints go up against 2A powers such as Iowa City West, Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids Washington and longtime 1A rival Dubuque Wahlert.
Potts knows the losses that may come in April could result in big things at the end of May.
“Our players know that we are in one of the best, if not the best, conferences in the state,” he said. “I tell them that we need to be able to compete with whoever we play. We may not win, but their goal is to go out and win points and games, one at a time.
“By doing this we will gradually get better and be prepared for the post season.”
It is a philosophy that has worked well for Potts and his players. Despite returning only two regulars from last year’s 10-7 team, the Saints are ranked No. 3 in the Iowa Boys’ Tennis Coaches Class 1A preseason poll. Wahlert holds down the No. 1 spot in the rankings.
“I was surprised by that,” Potts said. “We do have about three positions to fill and will know who will be filling them by the end of the week.”
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Lansing has departed, now playing his freshman season at Coe College, as have Calvin Ford, Alex Hinrichs and Curt Lengemann.
“We will need to rebuild after losing four seniors last year,” Potts said. “Having said that, we have two starters back and a couple players who got some varsity match experience last year.”
Junior Wes Johnson, who was a part of the 2017 state title team, played No. 4 singles last year and finished 9-6. Sophomore Matthew Schmit finished 10-5 at No. 3 singles.
“Matt and Wes will be competing for top spots this year,” Potts said, adding that freshman Brady Hortsmann also could be in the mix for the No. 1 spot.
Potts believes if the younger players progress, the Saints will again be in good position once the postseason starts.
“As always, I’m looking forward to a great year,” he said. “Even though we are rebuilding, I think we will have success this year. Having gotten to state the past few years, that is now part of our individual and team goals we plan for now.”