Dominant doubles drive ’Cats
While pro golfers were warding off winds at Augusta National, the Marshalltown boys’ tennis team did the same in its 7-4 win against Fort Dodge on Thursday.
The No. 4 doubles team of Jack Gruening and Jacob Eberle secured the win for the Bobcats (3-1) with a 6-4, 3-6, (10-6) win, as the sun set on an otherwise temperate day. With wind gusts disturbing play at times throughout the singles matches, the atmosphere surrounding the courts calmed down enough to let the players finish without much disruption.
Gruening and Eberle’s win not only solidified the Bobcats’ third-straight win, it epitomized the afternoon for a team that didn’t know its own depth.
Time and time again, the bottom half of the Bobcats’ lineup came through for the finish, winning matches and tiebreakers in big moments.
“The four and five doubles really showed we had more depth than Fort Dodge,” said MHS head coach James Christensen. “That’s something we’ve done a lot over the years, is develop those JV players and [make them] people who can help us on the varsity squad.”
Kadin Skala and Joe Kennedy were the No. 5 doubles pair for the Bobcats on Thursday, nabbing a 6-2, 6-3 win.
The Bobcats’ singles No. 4 Sean McWilliams (6-2, 6-3) and No. 5 Sam Brintnall (6-1, 8-6) each won their respective matches and Jacob Rachuy won his as the No. 3 player, 6-4, 6-2.
Rachuy said a pivotal part to the Bobcats’ success this year has been their work ethic and ability to gel as a team.
“We’ve been playing really well,” Rachuy said. “This is one of the best groups that we’ve had thus far. We want to play the best we can and as long as we do play the best we can, and give a full effort and we’re kind to the other person, we will always be winners.”
Team chemistry was one of the main reasons Christensen went with playing his No. 1 player in Luke McKibben and No. 4 McWilliams together in the top doubles pair. The two just play better together than McKibben and Smith, which is a mindset everyone on the team has bought into this year.
“Our guys have a lot of fun together and they seem to genuinely like each other,” Christensen said. “All the way from No. 1 singles down to the bottom JV guy, they have a lot of fun together. Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of time inside at practice, but we’ve been able to do some team-building things.”
By the end of the meet, when it was just Brintnall and Brennin Davis left on the court, the Bobcats were still up on the fence — even if they were wrapped up in a few blankets as the sun set — cheering on their last teammates. It’s that kind of scene some programs don’t have, and it’s an attitude Christensen sees growing every day.
A critical area for improvement that showed through as a success and a weakness for the MHS boys Thursday were their overtime matches. The Bobcats were 2-2 (one win, one loss in set tiebreakers and one win, one loss in super-tiebreakers). It was, however, the first time the Bobcats won a tiebreaking set or super-tiebreaker this year.
“Seeing the No. 4 doubles team winning the first super-tiebreaker of the year for us has got to give them a little confidence,” Christensen said.
The Bobcats will test their luck with a road trip to Newton today, starting at 4 p.m.
In between the singles and doubles matches, an unexpected visitor made a guest appearance in the skies of Thursday’s match with Fort Dodge. For about 10 minutes, a multi-propeller drone could be seen and loudly heard hovering above a pair of doubles pairs warming up for their matches.
At first, it was unclear where the drone was being manned from. The drone left before doubles started, and all was well. Briefly.
Again, about 10 minutes after it left, the drone reappeared in the middle of the matches. A few athletes were annoyed by the drone hovering about 20 feet off the ground. Once the pilot — a parent of an athlete playing in the meet — was found, he was asked to stop.
“I’m pretty sure the players handled it a lot better than I did,” Christensen said. “I was thrown off my game. I just wanted to focus on the matches and then I had to go take care of that situation. A lot of them didn’t notice what was going on, but the drone was bugging a couple of my guys. But they handled it pretty well.”
After being asked to remove the drone from playing area, the aircraft zoomed up into the air, still hovering above the courts, but out of ear shot. After another 10 minutes of flying, the drone was landed next to its pilot and did not take flight again.
Marshalltown 7, Fort Dodge 4
Jonny Bowser (FD) def. Luke McKibben 6-0, 6-0
Ryan Dolan (FD) def. Luke Smith 6-3, 4-6, (12-10)
Jacob Rachuy (MHS) def. Justin Vaughan 6-4, 6-2
Sean McWilliams (MHS) def. Daniel Leigh 6-2, 6-3
Sam Brintnall (MHS) def. Chris Hatton 6-1, 8-6
Mitchell Emery (FD) def. Jack Gruening 6-3, 7-6
Bowser and Dolan (FD) def. McKibben and McWilliams 6-2, 6-1
Smith and Rachuy (MHS) def. Vaughan and Hatton 6-2, 6-3
Brintnall and Brennin Davis (MHS) def. Leigh and Emery 7-6, 6-4
Gruening and Jacob Eberle (MHS) def. Triston Earnest and Adam Moore 6-4, 3-6, (10-6)
Joe Kennedy and Kadin Skala (MHS) def. Braydin Rude and H. Mustad 6-2, 6-3