Spartans keep swinging
Grundy Center/G-R advances past North Polk; within 1 win of state
GRUNDY CENTER — Finish it.
Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck head coach Dale Boren’s message to his No. 2 doubles team was as simple as he could make it. The Spartans were on the verge of advancing to the substate finals, and anything more complex might have disrupted the duo’s rhythm.
So Chase Boren and Garret Weldon did it, defeating their North Polk counterparts to push the GC/G-R boys’ tennis team into next weekend’s Class 1A substate finals with a 5-3 victory against the visiting Comets on breezy but warm Saturday afternoon.
Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck (7-2) advances to within one dual meet win of the state tournament, but does not yet know its opponent. The Spartans have to wait until the last preliminary substate match is contested on Monday before next Saturday’s substate pairings are released.
Until then, GC/G-R will practice with nervous anticipation after accomplishing something nobody expected when the spring season began.
“It’s a huge victory that Grundy Center needed,” said coach Boren. “These guys have come a long ways, playing all the time, all summer long. This is a huge plus for us because nobody around here expected us to be doing anything so it’s giant for the community and the school and these kids.”
In the first-to-five format of postseason team play, North Polk (5-8-2) got the upper hand right away. The Comets won the first two singles matches to take to the court, with state qualifying freshman Evan Moon defeating GC/G-R’s Sage Klar in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5, and Jack Veber rallying for a three-set triumph to beat Tjaden Meester, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
It was not the start the Spartans had hoped for, but one they proved capable of coming back from against an opponent they knew next to nothing about.
“I knew that we had a shot as a team,” said Klar. “I knew I would have to play really well to beat my guy, and I did, but he’s just really sound. There’s a reason he won districts as a freshman. But I’m just really proud of how the team responded when we were down 0-2.”
Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck countered with three-straight singles victories — all in straight sets — as Boren beat Ben Lehman 6-4, 6-0, Weldon defeated David Budtkhl 6-1, 6-3, and GC/G-R’s lone freshman Nick Voss stepped up with a 6-3, 6-3 triumph against Brennan Gering.
“The threes and fours came through, and Nick Voss at five was huge for us,” said coach Boren. “He only had a few meets under his belt and he came out and did a wonderful job for us. He’s our only freshman, he’s filled in for when Jordan Hook has been out … and he did a fantastic job for us.”
But instead of gaining the upper hand, GC/G-R dropped into a 3-all tie after singles play when North Polk’s Ethan Knight rallied past Landon Graham at No. 6 singles, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.
“I don’t like that, I did not like that at all,” coach Boren said of heading to doubles play all square. “I knew Sage and Tjaden had been playing real well and Chase and Garrett just came out from getting third at [the district meet in] Boone, so I felt comfortable with those guys, but then Moon was at No. 2 doubles so that was tough. But the nice part is Chase and Garrett didn’t get psyched out about it, they just hung in there and battled and ended up winning.”
Klar and Meester made relatively quick work of their No. 1 doubles counterparts — Lehman and Veber — with a 6-1, 6-4 victory, and Boren and Weldon fought back for a 7-5 win in the first set against Moon and Gering.
As the No. 3 doubles participants started warming up on the opposite court, Boren and Weldon inched closer to the clinching win. Coach Boren got the chance to talk with the pair as they swapped sides of the net, and delivered his concise message.
“Finish it. Period,” he said. “Keep doing what you’re doing. They were doing a fantastic job, I didn’t have to tell them a lot. They knew what they had to do when they were out there and they were doing it.”
Boren pounced on a lob at the net, made a pair of quirk returns and looked briefly to his teammate in disbelief after their North Polk opponents were unable to counter, clinching the Spartan victory, 7-5, 6-3.
“It was a rush to watch them win it, really exhilarating,” said Klar, a junior. “It’s something that Grundy tennis has never experienced before so it was great. Hopefully we don’t get one of the top dogs [in substate], but even if we do we’re going to prepare and see what happens.
“Coming into the season I didn’t expect us to make it this far.”
But a dominant doubles showing from Klar and Meester, who improved to 6-3 together this season, and an impressive victory by Boren and Weldon (5-1) paid huge dividends.
At Grundy Center
Evan Moon (NP) def. Sage Klar, 6-4, 7-5
Jack Veber (NP) def. Tjaden Meester, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3
Chase Boren (GCGR) def. Ben Lehman, 6-4, 6-0
Garret Weldon (GCGR) def. David Budtkhl, 6-1, 6-3
Nick Voss (GCGR) def. Brennan Gering, 6-3, 6-3
Ethan Knight (NP) def. Landon Graham, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1
Klar and Meester (GCGR) def. Veber and Lehman, 6-1, 6-4
Boren and Weldon (GCGR) def. Moon and Gering, 7-5, 6-3