CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa City West is looking to repeat. Cedar Rapids Xavier hopes to unseat a six-time defending state champion.
Both are attainable goals as the postseason begins Saturday for girls’ high school tennis teams with the start of regional team competition around the state.
State quarterfinals will be held May 20-21 at home sites with state semifinals and finals in both classes set for June 1 at yet-to-be-determined sites in the Des Moines area. Regional singles and doubles tournaments are scheduled for Wednesday.
Xavier (13-3) swings into action Saturday with a Class 1A quarterfinal match at 9 a.m. against Marion in Mount Vernon. A win there would send the Saints into a 1 p.m. semifinal against the South Tama/Mount Vernon winner.
“I feel like our team is starting to really click at the right time,” said Xavier Coach Matt Foxhoven. “We have had a challenging last couple weeks with teams like Iowa City West, (Dubuque) Wahlert and Hempstead. I feel like that is exactly what we needed at this point in the season.”
The end game for the Saints would be taking down six-time defending state champion Waterloo Columbus. The Sailors defeated Xavier, 5-4, in a tight dual last month. Foxhoven has a veteran team led by seniors Emily Jasper and Maddie Abu-Nameh, junior Sarah Abu-Nameh and sophomore Miyako Coffey. Freshmen Ally Burger and Courtney Carstensen have been solid in their first high school seasons.
“Having four girls in the lineup that have been through this process will be huge,” Foxhoven said. “The girls who played last year all got to experience success early on in the postseason followed by some really challenging matches that included quite a few match tiebreakers.
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“That’s the stuff that is difficult to simulate in practice. The fact that they have been through those with the pressure on could be a great thing for them going forward.”
West’s bid to repeat as Class 2A state champions will wait a week. The Women of Troy (15-0) received a bye and will meet the winner of Saturday’s Cedar Rapids Prairie-Iowa City Liberty match. Even without injured senior Emma Koch, West hasn’t missed a beat, going 84-6 overall in singles and 41-4 in doubles.
Junior Jessica Moonjely has stepped in for Koch at No. 1 singles. Senior Vivian Mitchell, junior Natalie Katz, along with sophomores Audrey Koch and Caroline Chandler, give veteran coach Amie Villarini a formidable lineup.
“I believe the team is well adjusted to the line up and how things have progressed this season,” Villarini said. “We are confident we will put up a good fight for postseason competition.”
There are no official state rankings for girls’ tennis, but Ames, West and West Des Moines Dowling have been considered the top three in the state by the Iowa High School Tennis website, which ranks the teams. West downed previously undefeated Cedar Falls, 7-2, on Thursday. Ames and Dowling met in a dual on Friday.
“I feel good we have a team who is experienced and that will carry us far in competition,” Villarini said. “It will be some good tennis to watch.”
On Wednesday, West will host a six-team regional for singles and doubles while Xavier will be in an eight-team grouping at Western Dubuque. Two singles players and two doubles teams from each school will participate with winners and runners-up qualifying for state, May 29-30 at Bettendorf (2A) and the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex in Iowa City (1A).
Villarini has not released how she plans to place her players for the individual tournament. Audrey Koch partnered with her sister to win the 2A doubles title last year. Moonjely placed eighth in singles.
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Foxhoven said the Saints will use their top four players in doubles. Coffey and Jasper, who combined with Nina Marquardt to finish fourth at state last season, will be paired together as will the Abu-Nameh sisters. Carstensen and Burger will play singles.
“Miyako and Emily have kind of planned on this since last season, and worked quite a bit throughout the offseason on their doubles games together,” he said. “They have built up a pretty strong case for a high seed throughout the year and are excited to go.
“Sarah and Maddie made the decision on their own. We talked about it a couple weeks ago and they felt like their doubles game has been stronger lately and wanted to go that route. Hopefully we will be able to get both through.”