Bobcat girls tennis team talented at the top

The Marshalltown girls tennis team is one meet into the season and, though they didn’t pull off a win against Ankeny Centennial in the season debut, head coach John Fiscus said he is particularly excited about how Emily Miller, Mary Kate Gruening, Madi Finch and Olivia Brintnall looked.

“I was really pleased with my top four girls especially because they came out and played and kind of got their feet wet so they know what to expect for the rest of the season,” he said.

Of those top four, Miller enters with the most experience. She played the bulk of last season in the No. 1 spot, and Fiscus said Miller has had some extra motivation to hold on to her top spot on the roster.

“She knows the competition level and I really think she is stepping up her game a little bit because of my No. 2 girl in Mary Kate Gruening,” Fiscus said. “Mary Kate is very good and she and Emily are very close and they battle. That’s good because I am seeing a lot more battle out of Emily this year.”

Gruening didn’t play as a freshman but she is experienced in the sport because of playing with her brother Jack, who is a top-level player for the MHS boys team. Fiscus said Gruening’s presence is great both on and off the court.

“I have told her many times that I really enjoyed that she came out this year for tennis because she’s a wonderful person to be around, not just a great player,” he said.

Finch and Brintnall were both lower-tier varsity players a season ago, but Fiscus said they both have made great strides.

“Madi is a very solid three, where she really had her turn last year was I had her play in regionals, where there was some really tough competition,” Fiscus said. “She went there and played and it was the same with Olivia Brintnall. They were not our top varsity people by any means, they played a lot of JV even, but having them get that experience at the regional level was phenomenal for them.”

Both Finch and Brintnall are contributors in many Bobcat sports, and Fiscus said it’s their play during the fall that translates the best to the tennis courts.

“They are both good volleyball players and I always like to have volleyball players play tennis because they have some court sense and the strokes are similar,” he said.

On Tuesday against Ankeny Centennial, the better results from all four of the top players came in the doubles matches, where Miller and Gruening lost, 6-4, 6-3, and Finch and Brintnall fell 6-3, 7-5. Fiscus said their doubles teams will be a strength this year, but they need to take some of that into the singles matches as well.

“They are better doubles players than they are singles, so we are going to keep working on that,” he said. “Practices are limited because we have a lot of meets, but that’s fine because that’s how you are going to get match tough is by playing more matches.”

It’s not necessarily the physical gains that Fiscus said his girls will benefit from most while playing matches, but the mental ones.

“Mental toughness I think is the biggest key that we need to have, and that’s something that’s more innate, it’s not always easy to teach,” he said. “The girls have to kind of develop that on their own and they will because the more match play you have the tougher you get mentally and you know what shots you can use and you just get experience on the court.”

It will be those four doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the Bobcats in 2019, but Fiscus said he has his eyes on a few other girls who could show some improvement and contribute.

“Grace Fisher came out this year and I could see her developing, we just have to work on her backhand,” he said. “America Dominquez has been out for quite a few years and has played varsity. There’s also Stella Roseburrough Borras and Carly Streets, we have some other girls and there will be some changing around.”

There are some possibilities for growth and success for the Marshalltown girls on the tennis courts this spring, and Fiscus said if everything comes together well he thinks his team could find itself on top in a variety of meets.

“We want to win at least four or five meets, that’s basically where we are at right now,” he said. “See what we can do at regionals, that all comes down to your draw and how that pans out, but we basically just want to get some victories.”

The Bobcats will hit the road again today to face off with Southeast Polk, starting at 4 p.m. They will then host Newton for their home opener on Friday at 4 p.m., the start of five-straight home matches.