By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
For tennis players in the state of Iowa the beginning of Memorial Day weekend signals the start of championship time.
Singles, doubles and team championships will be handed out in Class 1A and 2A at locations across the state during a five-day stretch that begins with opening of individual state tournaments on Friday.
Area players will be in the mix for plenty of hardware this week with City High and West High both represented in the Class 2A individual tournament at Veterans Memorial Tennis Center in Cedar Rapids.
With so much going on here is a list of the top storylines heading into the final few days of the boys tennis season.
One More Match?
Since the conclusion of the district title match between City High’s Joe Hoff and West High’s Jiung Jung the big question surrounding the 2A singles tournament is if there would be one more match between the long-time friends and cross-town rivals.
Hoff and Jung have met five times over the past two seasons, with three going to a decisive third set.
The last meeting between to the two to not go to a third set was a 6-4, 6-0 Jung win in the 2A state title match last season.
This year’s matches have been nearly dead even and as entertaining as imaginable.
Hoff won a 5-7, 6-4, 10-8 contest in the regular season dual between the two teams with Jung taking a 3-6, 7-5, 2-0 victory in the district final on May 11 in which Hoff defaulted due to leg cramps.
“I know it’s going to be close if we meet again and hopefully we do meet again,” Hoff said. “It would be fun to play one more time at state.”
Leaving a Legacy
Jung is already among the most decorated players in state history.
The two-time defending 2A singles champion will try to add to that legacy this weekend as he attempts to become the fourth three-time singles champ in state history and first since Des Moines Roosevelt’s Charlie Caris won his third straight title in 2009.
Jung would be the second three-time champion from Iowa City, joining Art Andrews who won three consecutive titles for City High from 1953-1955 after winning a doubles title in 1952.
“The reason only three people in the history of our state have ever done it is because it is very, very difficult,” West High coach Mitch Gross said. “To win one state title is crazy enough so the amount of skill and preparation and luck and all those things to happen three times is hard to do.”
After third-place finish at state as a freshman in 2014 Jung has been nearly unbeatable, capping unbeaten seasons with state titles each of the past two years.
His lone loss over the past three seasons came this year to Hoff back on May 2.
Jung has also been a part of two team titles at West High and the Trojans will play for another next week.
Joe Knows the Way
The road back to the state title match got a little tougher for Hoff following his district title loss to Jung.
It’s a road that Hoff knows quite well.
Hoff knocked off the number two and number three seeds on his way to a state runner-up finish last season after entering unseeded.
The top four seeds at the state meet all go to district champions meaning that with a district title loss to a two-time state champion Jung the defending runner-up Hoff will enter the state meet unseeded for the second straight year.
“He knows he can do it again and I’m very confident he can do it again,” City High coach Chip Hardesty said. “He’s a much better player than he was last year in almost every way mentally and physically so I expect him to come back and be in the final again and I know that’s his expectation.”
Jung, Pleasant Valley senior Sriram Sugumaran and Fort Dodge senior Jonny Bowser who finished fourth last season are candidates for the top three seeds.
“It’s going to be tougher but you are going to play great people in the tournament either way so to me it shouldn’t matter if its second round or the semis or the finals,” Hoff said. “Hopefully everything goes like last year where I play good tennis my first couple rounds and I’m able to knock off a couple of the top seeds.
Double the Fun
Hoff and Jung are the only two players seeking a return to the state title match this week.
The West High doubles team of Cole Schneider and Jack Wenzel finished runner-up last year to the Pleasant Valley tandem of Sugumaran and Charlie Humes.
Wenzel and Schneider will enter unseeded after dropping the district title match to the Washington team of sophomores Rami Scheetz and Ty Sherman but remain a top contender for the state title.
“Being there last yaer I think will help us this year hopefully we just need to play great doubles,” Schneider said. “I think it’ a big motivation for us to get back to the finals and hopefully come out on top.”
Singles and doubles champions will be crowned on Saturday afternoon but Tuesday the attention turns to the 2A team title up for grabs at Ankeny Tennis Center at Prairie Ridge Sports Complex in Ankeny.
Top-ranked West High faces No. 4 West Des Moines Valley in the semifinals where it will attempt to reach the state title match for the seventh straight season.
West High defeated West Des Moines Valley 5-0 in last year’s 2A title match and won an 8-1 decision over the Tigers earlier this season.
With a win West High will face the winner of Pleasant Valley and Linn-Mar in the title match as the Trojans seek their second straight title and fifth in the past six seasons.
“I think that is the number one thing for us,” West High senior Cole Schneider said. “Being part of a great team and another team championship that is probably the most important thing to me.”