By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – With a season and a half of varsity tennis experience under her belt pre-match nerves were supposed to be a thing of the past for West High sophomore Kaily Speer.
At least that’s what Speer thought.
Speer figured she’d left the jitters behind after a freshman season in which she posted a 12-4 record while playing mostly at number three singles.
With regular number one player Emma Koch out of the lineup for last weekend duals with Dubuque Wahlert and Dubuque Hempstead and Speer pegged as her replacement in the top spot the nerves returned.
“I was definitely super nervous,” Speer said. “I could hardly sleep (the night before) I was so nervous.”
Speer didn’t let those nerves show Saturday while winning a pair of matches in her temporary spot atop the West High lineup.
The regular number two singles player for West High, Speer improved her season record to 9-1 with 10-8 wins over Audrey Hinz of Dubuque Wahlert and Joyce Sun of Dubuque Hempstead.
“It’s hard especially for Kaily to come up and play number one, being in that number one spot is intimidating and she was nervous but she battled through the nerves,” West High coach Aimie Villarini said. “It’s a huge boost for her.”
Speer was flawless in her spot at number one singles on Saturday and added a pair of victories in doubles while teaming with Vivian Mitchell.
“The good thing about playing without our number one player is that it forces everybody to step up and play at a whole different level,” Villarini said. “Even in doubles, I had to shift doubles partners around but they rose to the occasion and said we are going to do this.”
The strong showing from Speer helped West High cap an impressive week that began with a win over Class 2A defending state champion Cedar Rapids Prairie.
Speer’s wins at number one singles led West High to a 5-4 win over previously unbeaten Dubuque Wahlert on Saturday morning and a 6-3 win over Dubuque Hempstead, a team that defeated West High without Koch last season.
“Going into this week I was definitely stressed out because I knew this was going to be our hardest team right in a row and we play Linn-Mar next which is another tough team,” Speer said. “It meant so much to us to win this especially without our top player.”
Speer has built on a strong freshman season this spring, with her only loss in singles play coming to Hannah Borgh of Bettendorf.
She said she played almost every day between the end of her freshman season and start of her sophomore campaign.
That work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“She is our two and she had to bump up to the one spot which is a completely different challenge to take on but she is capable and she showed that,” West High senior Abby Jans said. “She is definitely capable of playing at that level.”