Your Prep Sports
CEDAR RAPIDS – As close friends, frequent practice partners and cross-town rivals there aren’t a lot of surprises when Joe Hoff and Jiung Jung meet on the tennis court.
Even with all the familiarity, neither Hoff or Jung could have predicted the ending of Thursday’s district title match between the top two singles players in the state.
Cramping forced Hoff to default trailing 2-0 in the third set tiebreaker allowing Jung to win his third consecutive district title with a 3-6, 7-5, 2-0 win at the Veterans Memorial tennis courts in Cedar Rapids.
“The match didn’t end the way that either of us would have liked but I definitely think being able to compete with Joe at that level gives me a lot of confidence,” Jung said. “Right now I think I’m playing my best tennis, Joe is playing his best tennis and because of that we have been having some really fun matches.”
The fifth meeting over the past two seasons between Hoff and Jung was shaping up to be one of the best yet before cramping in the quadriceps and hip flexor area proved too much for Hoff.
The loss was the first of the season for Hoff, who snapped what he then jokingly estimated as a 100-match losing streak to Jung with a three-set win during the dual meet between the teams earlier this month.
“That was as an athletic high school tennis match as I’ve seen,” City High coach Chip Hardesty said. “There were a couple of points where they were all over the court and not just one or two or three or four balls but 10 or 12 balls that we were great shots on both sides and that takes it out of you. Once you start cramping the way he was cramping it’s all over.”
A rematch of last year’s district and state title matches was all Hoff early.
Hoff won the opening game and never trailed in a convincing 6-3 opening-set win.
Jung demonstrated why he is the two-time defending 2A state champion, battling back for a 7-5 win in the second set to force the tiebreaker.
“Joe didn’t even let up the second set we just finagled a win,” West High coach Mitch Gross said. “We broke him on his last service game, that’s got to be a testament to Jiung.”
The cramping began for Hoff late in the second set and continued into the third.
Even after a lengthy injury timeout, Hoff couldn’t recover enough to be fully effective and retired.
“I thought Joe dictated the entire match, even though he lost the second set I thought he outplayed Jiung,” Gross said. “He was on fire today to say it’s a shame it ended for him this way is an understatement.”
Thursday’s match was the third meeting between the two players to go to a third set with each winning one.
Each of the first two three-set matches came in the regular season including Hoff’s 5-7, 6-4, 10-8 win earlier this month.
This match had a similar feel before Hoff’s injury.
“You hate to say this when we had an end like we had but I think he seemed to be slightly the better player today,” Hardesty said. “I say slightly because these guys are so evenly matched that literally two points or one point can be the difference in the match.”
Neither player expects Thursday to be the final meeting between the two long-time friends.
Jung expects to face Hoff again at state hopefully in the title match for the second year in a row.
“I definitely expect Joe to turn around from this loss and make a huge impact at state,” Jung said. “Hopefully, I can do the same.”
Last year Jung won a 6-2, 7-5 decision over Hoff in the district final but Hoff navigated his way to the state title match as an unseeded player.
This year he will have to do the same.
“That’s definitely the goal to see each other again in the state tournament,” Hoff said. “I know I am going to go in unseeded now but hopefully I can fight my way through the draw and see him again in the finals.”
The win by Jung helped West High finish with 25 points to claim the district title by a point over runner-up Cedar Rapids Washington.
Washington had the doubles champion as Rami Scheetz and Ty Sherman defeated the West High tandem of Cole Schneider and Jack Wenzel 6-4, 7-5 in the title match.
The West High doubles team of Brad DiLeo and Sam Shin finished fourth, falling to the Cedar Rapids Washington duo of William Rizer and Ethan Wickham 3-6, 7-6, 10-5 in the third place match.
“Obviously, we are happy we won the district meet but it’s not the way we wrote it and to be honest I don’t think we deserved to win it,” Gross said. “We will take but we have to make this a major learning experience.”