IOWA CITY — Jessica Moonjely said she felt the pressure early in the season.
The Iowa City West girls’ tennis program has been one of the state’s best and Moonjely, a junior, has played a big role in that success.
However, her role became bigger when senior Emma Koch, the team’s top singles and doubles player in 2018, went down with a knee injury last fall before the start of basketball season.
Koch’s injury thrust Moonjely into the top singles position and into the No. 1 doubles slot alongside Koch’s sister, Audrey. All the Koch sisters did last year was win the Class 2A state doubles title.
“Last year, Emma and Audrey went out and won state doubles,” Moonjely said. “I really wanted to go out and make sure Audrey had another good experience. I didn’t want to let (Audrey) down.”
So far, so good.
Moonjely and Koch have rolled to an undefeated record so far this season and were impressive in capturing the regional doubles title here Wednesday, downing teammates Vivian Mitchell and Caroline Mascardo, 6-1, 6-2, in the title match. Both West teams, the top two regional seeds, advance to the state tournament, set for May 29-30 in Bettendorf.
Despite her strong play with Audrey Koch, Moonjely admits doubles are not her strength. She finished eighth in singles at state last year as a sophomore.
“I definitely had to work a little harder,” she said. “... I am more of a singles player, but I think we’ve both really grown and adjusted to each other on the court.”
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Audrey Koch said playing with Moonjely provides their opponents a bit more contrast compared to last year when she played with her sister.
“Emma and I definitely used our height at the net,” said Audrey Koch. “Jessica is a little shorter, but it has actually been working really well because Jessica likes the baseline and I definitely favor the net.”
Even though this is the first season the pair has played together for the Women of Troy, they have been friends for many years, thanks to tennis.
That wasn’t lost on Moonjely after winning a regional title.
“There’s just something really special about being able to qualify for state with someone who I’ve known for so long and that I’m lucky to call my friend,” she said. “We always have a blast each time we play together and lift each other up when the other gets down. I couldn’t be more thrilled to go on this journey to state with Audrey.”
Koch added: “It was also super cool to be playing the other West High doubles team in the finals. Having both teams going to state is going to be really special.”
West also claimed the singles title as sophomore Caroline Chandler, who played at No. 4 singles for much of the season and was the No. 4 regional seed, rolled past top-seeded Caroline Carter of Iowa City High, 6-2, 6-3, in the semifinals. She followed that up by winning 6-0, 6-0, over Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Avya Bohr in the finals.