What to Watch at the Girls State Tennis Tournaments
By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
The three-day girls tennis postseason opens with the first day of singles and doubles competition on Thursday with Class 2A at Prairie Ridge Sports Complex in Ankeny and Class 1A at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center in Iowa City.
In all two singles titles, two doubles titles and two teams titles will be handed out over the next few days.
Here are a few of the things to keep an eye on over busy stretch of tennis over the next few days.
Long-time Friends, First-time partners
Lucy Wagner and Amelia Prybil have been friends and teammates for four years.
In all their time together over the past four seasons the only two seniors on the City High varsity roster had never been doubles partners until a month ago.
“We’ve both been on varsity for the last four years so we know each other well and we know the strengths and weaknesses of the other player but we hadn’t played doubles together until this year,” Wagner explained. “She is a really phenomenal singles player and I’ve seen her play so I know her strengths off of that.”
Wagner and Prybil played doubles together once during the regular season, earning an 10-0 win in a dual against Waterloo East.
The lack of any extensive on-court experience hasn’t stopped Prybil and Wagner from putting together a strong finish to their respective careers.
Wagner and Prybil finished runner-up in the doubles bracket at the Class 2A Region 8 tournament to qualify for state in their only season playing doubles together.
“Going into it we hadn’t played together so we didn’t know how we were going to do,” Prybil said. “It feels pretty nice as a senior to be able to play with one of my first friends at City High.”
Wagner was a state doubles qualifier a year ago with City High’s number one singles player from a year ago, Innes Hicasasmaz. This year she spent most of the season playing doubles with current No. 1 Bihotza James-Lejarcegui.
Switching partners hasn’t been a problem for the new dup which opens state tournament play against the second-seeded team of Anna Rose Corell and Anna Wanek of West Des Moines Dowling.
“They have both been four-year starters and I couldn’t be happier for them,” City High coach Fred Pedersen said. “All they have to do is go out and play. Just play how they know how to play and play loose and have fun.”
Double the Fun
Emma Koch made a splash in her state meet debut last season finishing sixth in the 2A singles bracket.
Koch is back at state this season and this time she has brought a friend.
The West High sophomore teamed with senior Abby Jans to qualifying for the state meet at doubles and enters as the number three seed in the 2A field.
“I’m excited about them,” West High coach Amie Villarini said. “Emma is great at the net and Abby has experience playing doubles, she is comfortable playing doubles and so I think it’s going to be fun to watch and they have a good shot at doing well.”
Jans played doubles at the state meet two seasons ago with her sister Megan so both West High players have state meet experience.
The duo won the regional title and opens against the West Des Moines Dowling team of Kaylyn Chleborad and Rockie Greenslade.
“I definitely think my serve has gotten pretty strong and my net game which is why I have been liking doubles a lot,” Koch said. “I think those two areas of my game have improved and both help in doubles.”
Nothing New for Speer
West High sophomore Kaily Speer is making her state singles debut but playing against top competition isn’t anything new for Speer.
Speer (16-3) filled in for West High’s regular number one Emma Koch several times this season and has experience playing against opposing team’s top player.
The sophomore had a 3-1 record while playing in the number one spot this season opens state tournament play against Sofia Sackett of West Des Moines Dowling
Practice Makes Perfect
West High coach Amie Villarini learned her lesson in 2013 in her first trip to the state team tournament.
That lesson? Take time to work on tiebreakers.
“I learned from my first season ever coaching we made it to the final four and we played Urbandale and four of our matches went to tiebreakers and we lost every single one,” Villarini said. “I just learned right there and those tiebreakers are so important.”
Thanks in part to that lesson West High will make its second appearance in the state semifinals under Villarini on Saturday when it faces West Des Moines Dowling at 9 a.m. at Prairie Ridge Sports Complex in Ankeny. The winner will face the winner of the other semifinal between Ames and Pleasant Valley in the 2 p.m. title match.
West High had four matches go to third-set tiebreakers in its regional final with defending 2A state champion Cedar Rapids Prairie.
The Women of Troy won three of those to secure a 5-1 win in the match.
Jans won a 10-7 tiebreaker over Karleigh Schilling at number three singles and Jessica Moonjely and Megan Moreland each won tiebreaks to help West High advance.
“Meg even told me ‘it was no thing we’ve been doing tiebreakers all week’, that’s what she said,” Villarini said. “I was really proud of our team for pulling through the tight matches, we had been working on those tie-breakers for two weeks.”
Bihotza James-Lejarcegui Seeking Singles Success
After back-to-back state doubles appearances, City High junior Bihotza James-Lejarcegui will try her hand at singles this season.
James-Lejarcegui won the 2A Region 8 title and brings a 16-4 record into the Class 2A singles bracket where she will face Jamie Zhang of Ames in the opening round.
With a win James-Lejarcegui would like face third-seeded Lily Feldman of Pleasant Valley in the quarterfinals.