Bobcats net first home win

Singles sweep powers Marshalltown boys tennis past Urbandale 9-2

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown junior Luke McKibben makes a forehanded shot on the ball in a match against Urbandale on Thursday. McKibben won both his No. 1 singles match and his No. 2 doubles match against the J-Hawks as the Bobcats won the meet, 9-2.

Last time the Marshalltown boys tennis team played host in a meet, it was swept by Ames in the home opener. On Thursday, the Bobcats were hungry for a win in front of their home crowd, and that win was secured before the doubles matches had even taken place.

MHS swept Urbandale in the singles matches 6-0 en route to a 9-2 win in a CIML Iowa Conference victory, though the matches were closer than the end result would show.

Kadin Skala had the most dramatic victory in singles, losing in the No. 6 matchup to Dan Halstead in the first set, 7-6, then climbing back in to win the second set 6-2 and force a tiebreaker set, where Skala came out victorious 10-7.

Bobcats head coach James Christensen said his guys played tough while battling through a bit of adversity against the J-Hawks (2-5, 0-2).

“We pulled some matches out there, Kadin again at No. 6 singles with an absolute gutsy match,” Christensen said. “Luke McKibben took care of business again, Jack Gruening after basically 10 days without playing any tennis, having him come off some sickness and getting him back out there with a good win was real nice.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown sophomore Jack Gruening cuts at the ball during a match in the Bobcats’ 9-2 home win over Urbandale on Thursday.

McKibben dominated his match at No. 1 singles for Marshalltown (3-3, 2-1), taking out Alex Thompson in two sets, 6-1, 6-2. McKibben said he enjoyed his matchup with Thompson, and he won because of his attention to detail.

“I had a good time playing him, he was a really nice guy,” McKibben said. “I came in targeting his back hand and it worked pretty well.”

Gruening had an equally-dominant showing at No. 3 singles, defeating Aditya Kotla in two sets, 6-2, 6-1. As Christensen said, Gruening had been out the last two meets due to battling some illness, including the sweep loss to Ames, so Gruening said getting onto the court at home and earning his first home victory of the season was great.

“The first match was kind of a slow start because I hadn’t played in a while but it ended up being fine,” Gruening said. “I got the groove going.”

Luke Smith and Jacob Smith each won their matches at Nos. 2 and 4 doubles respectively, both by a 6-3, 6-2 margin, while Joseph Kennedy won at tight one at No. 5 singles over Matt Farrell, 7-5, 6-4.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

Christensen said Jacob specifically was on his game on Thursday, rebounding from a rough showing last time out against Mason City.

“I thought Jacob Smith played the best tennis he played all year in the singles, he really took care of business,” he said. “That was good to see him take a step forward after a tough match in Mason City.”

In the doubles matches, McKibben and Gruening paired up for the first time this season at the No. 1 doubles spot, and they ran through Thompson and Halstead in two sets, 6-0, 6-1. McKibben said there was still room for improvement after the duo earned their first doubles victory, however.

“I think we played alright, we had a couple of points that we gave away to them but overall we played really well,” he said.

Christensen was hard-pressed to find any flaws in their match together, saying they both were playing at a high level.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“They weren’t afraid, and that’s doubles for you,” he said. “They trusted their shots, they stepped into it, they served well, they volleyed well, they placed it well, there’s really not too much to pick on. They lost a couple points in the middle of that second set but otherwise they were dominant.”

David Wahl and David Brintnall were the first doubles team to complete their match, defeating Cade Hoover and Aiden Schneider at No. 5 doubles, 6-3, 6-1, but between the No. 1 and No. 5 spots, the doubles teams struggled a bit.

Reed Fricke was out sick, forcing a bit of a shakeup with the middle teams with Skala playing with Jacob Eberle at No. 3 doubles, the Luke and Jacob Smith combining at No. 2 doubles, and Kennedy playing with Carson Beals at the No. 4 spot.

Only Skala and Eberle would pull out wins from that group, taking down Damon Drury and Farrell, 6-4, 6-0, but Christensen said he was looking for a bit of a better showing from the doubles as a whole.

“At No. 1 we played well together and at No. 5 we played well together,” he said. “That’s going to be the teaching point this week with the other doubles teams, to trust what we’ve done. They were just kind of letting the other team take control, kind of reacting instead of being the aggressors. I don’t care how good the other team is, they are going to have the advantage.”

The Bobcats will look to maintain this momentum earned over the J-Hawks on Tuesday when they travel to take on Des Moines Hoover, starting at 4 p.m.

Marshalltown 9, Urbandale 2

At Marshalltown

Singles

Luke McKibben (MHS) def. Alex Thompson, 6-1, 6-2

Luke Smith (MHS) def. Varun Vepa, 6-3, 6-2

Jack Gruening (MHS) def. Aditya Kotla, 6-2, 6-1

Jacob Smith (MHS) def. Damon Drury, 6-3, 6-2

Joe Kennedy (MHS) def. Matt Farrell, 7-5, 6-4

Kadin Skala (MHS) def. Dan Halstead, 6-7, 6-2, (10-7)

Doubles

McKibben and Gruening (MHS) def. Thompson and Halstead, 6-0, 6-1

Vepa and Kotla (U) def. Smith and Smith, 1-6, 7-6 (5), (10-5)

Skala and Jacob Eberle (MHS) def. Drury and Farrell, 6-4, 6-0

Theo Miller and Robbie Price (U) def. Kennedy and Carson Beals, 6-4, 5-7, (10-8)

David Wahl and David Brintnall (MHS) def. Aiden Schneider and Cade Hoover, 6-3, 6-1