MARION — The Linn-Mar boys’ tennis team has some seniors looking to recapture past glories and some underclassmen looking to make a little history of their own.
Coach Chris Wundrum’s Lions are two matches away from capturing a second Class 2A state title in four years after dispatching Pleasant Valley, 5-1, in a state quarterfinal match Saturday at Linn-Mar.
Ben Hediger is one of four seniors in the top six for the Lions. Hediger, Lucas Huffman, Zach Glanz and Jack Gertsen were part of the program as freshmen when the Lions won it all in 2015. Sophomores Luke VanDonslear and Jackson Eells want to know the feeling that comes with winning a state title.
The second-ranked Lions (17-1) started the day by downing Bettendorf, 5-1, in the substate final. Now they advance to the state semifinals, May 29 in Ankeny. Joining Linn-Mar in the semifinals is top-ranked Iowa City West, which downed Cedar Rapids Washington, 5-0, in its state quarterfinal. Waukee and West Des Moines Valley also advanced on Saturday.
“We came out a little sluggish in the morning,” Linn-Mar Coach Chris Wundrum said. “We didn’t play our best matches in the morning. I think that helped us come out a little angry in the afternoon.”
Hediger was the lone Lion to lose in the morning dual with Bettendorf. He didn’t want his final match on the Linn-Mar courts to end the same way.
“This is something I’ve worked hard at for four years,” he said. “We have some goals left we want to accomplish.
Hediger’s singles match with Pleasant Valley’s Nathan Wong was the final one on court. Linn-Mar held a 4-1 lead at that point. A second Hediger loss on the day would have forced the dual meet to the doubles matches to determine a winner.
“Ben would probably tell you that he didn’t have his best game today,” Wundram said. “Ben Hediger is a fighter and he is going to find a way to win. When it was Ben who was the last one on the court I didn’t have a doubt. There was no way he was going to lose that match.”
Hediger found himself down two set points in the second set tiebreaker but stormed back to take the final four points and secure the match win for the Lions.
“I just keep working,” Hediger said. “You have to be tough in those types of situations.”
VanDonslear also has proved to be tough all year for Linn-Mar. He ascended to the No. 1 singles spot after playing at No. 2 behind Hediger last year. He posted a hard fought 6-4, 6-2 win over the Spartans’ Justin Sehlin.
“Justin is a really good player,” VonDonslear said. “I’ve played against him for a lot of years now.”
VonDonslear played a big role in the Lions finishing second behind Iowa City West last season. He knows the sense of urgency the seniors are feeling and he just wants to do his part.
“It feels amazing to go to state again and we know this is the last shot for the seniors,” he said. “I just want to go and give a point to my team to help us win the state championship.”
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The seeding for state will be determined on Tuesday, but it is expected that Iowa City West will be No. 1 and Linn-Mar No. 2.
“No matter what, there are going to be four good teams there at state,” Wundram said.