CORONAVIRUS

Iowa high school tennis seniors hope to have final season

With season suspended for now, athletes try to stay in shape

Iowa City West's Jessica Moonjely returns the ball as she and Audrey Koch face Cedar Rapids Washington's Liberty Wickham
Iowa City West's Jessica Moonjely returns the ball as she and Audrey Koch face Cedar Rapids Washington's Liberty Wickham and Josie Norris in a second round double match during a regional tennis tournament at West High in Iowa City on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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One has an NCAA Division I offer in hand while the other’s career will end soon.

For Linn-Mar’s Luke VanDonslear and Iowa City West’s Jessica Moonjely, the prospect of not having a high school tennis season has different ramifications for the seniors.

Both are four-year performers for their schools and have been a member of a state team champion. For VanDonslear, a Class 2A state singles title was the target in 2020, after finishing third in 2019. Moonjely and Audrey Koch were second in 2A doubles and, if entered in 2020, would again be a top contender.

As of now, all spring prep sports in Iowa have been put on hold until April 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic. With each passing day, the prospects for a spring season grow dimmer.

VanDonslear has the small consolation of a college career ahead. He has committed to play at Northern Colorado. For Moonjely, it would end her career.

“With the current pandemic, I wasn’t surprised by the cancellation but I didn’t know how devastating it would feel until it actually happened,” Moonjely said. “This past year, I have worked very hard to achieve big goals in my final season, but if spring sports are canceled, it will feel as if I’m leaving a job unfinished.”

If there is a season, Linn-Mar Coach Chris Wundram knows he has a potential state champion.

“In my opinion, Luke is the favorite to win (the state singles title) this season,” he said. “I don’t say that lightly. Luke’s work ethic and drive are incredible. It’s going to take quite an opponent to beat him.”

With no team activities allowed, there has been limited communications between players and coaches. Both players said they have stayed connected to their teammates through social media, while the coaches, Wundram and West’s Amie Villarini, have basically been keeping their players informed.

“Checking in with the team every once in a while to see how everyone is passing the time helps me feel a little less alone,” Moonjely said.

With no team workouts available, both players are preparing on their own.

“I’ve been working out 1-2 hours a day,” VanDonslear said. “I’ve been working on my cardio and footwork with a lot of tennis drills.”

Moonjely has had to improvise.

“I don’t have a lot of equipment in my house, so I have to be creative with the space I do have,” she said. “Even if I don’t have a racquet in my hand I’m finding ways to improve as an athlete.”

The chance to have a spring season, even a shortened one, keeps both players motivated.

“I’m just staying positive and hopefully looking forward to a great season,” VanDonslear said. “If the season is canceled, I’ve had a lot of fun and success playing for Coach Wundram and assistant coach (Kyle) Becker at Linn-Mar. We won a state team title in 2018 and I have very fond memories of my high school tennis career.”

Moonjely said “if we’re able to play even an abbreviated season I would be ecstatic. Already, I am incredibly proud of my teammates both as players and as people.

“We’re a pretty young team this season, and I know, given the chance, we would rise to the occasion. Even if we don’t get to play this year, I’m confident that the future of West girls’ tennis is in good hands.”

Villarini summed it up best.

“These are unprecedented and historic times,” she said. “I’m hopeful this will all pass and pass soon so that we can get on with our normal routines.”

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