MARION — Senior Brad DiLeo has been a valuable member of the Iowa City West tennis team for four years.
And he has never been more valuable than he was in Tuesday night’s dual meet against Linn-Mar.
DiLeo posted a big 7-5, 6-2 singles win over longtime rival Jack Gertsen at No. 5 singles, then combined with freshman Eli Young to down Gertsen and Jackson Eells, 6-4, 7-5 at No. 3 doubles, giving the Trojans a 5-4 victory in a hotly-contested meet at Linn-Mar.
The dual win was West’s 42nd straight. The last Trojan loss was a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Lions in the 2015 state title match.
“I’m glad it was close,” DiLeo admitted after the meet. “It was a great atmosphere and I loved getting to play (Gertsen) again. We’ve played a lot and always have had good matches.”
DiLeo and Young trailed 5-4 in the second set and were down three set points with Young serving. DiLeo said he just told his teammate to stay focused.
“I went to my partner and told him to stay calm,” DiLeo said. “I just told him we could do it and we did.”
Linn-Mar and West entered the meet ranked 1-2 in Class 2A and the meet lived up to its billing.
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The Lions (7-1) were almost out of the match in singles. It took a run of six straight points from Ben Hediger at No. 2 singles to rally in the third set to down Sasha Chackalackal, 10-8, to keep Linn-Mar in the match. The Lions won with Luke VanDonslear at No. 1 singles, but West (5-0) rolled to convincing wins in the other four singles matches.
“It was an intense battle,” West Coach Mitch Gross said. “I think we were a little shellshocked coming out of singles. We were a few points from closing the meet out in singles and we came out a little slow in doubles because of that.”
Linn-Mar Coach Chris Wundram is hopeful the two teams get the chance to meet again with a state title on the line.
“This was a great match to be part of,” he said. “If you can take something from a loss it adds fuel to the fire.
“We know what we have to do now and we should be motivated if we get to play them again.”