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Bobcats make it seven straight

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown senior Luke Smith reaches for a backhanded hit on the ball during the singles matches in the Bobcats’ 8-3 victory over Mason City in Marshalltown on Friday. The win was the seventh straight for the MHS boys.

Three meets into the year, the Marshalltown boys tennis team was sitting at 1-2 with an injury to one of its top players on the roster and a tough schedule on the horizon.

Now with only one week left in the season the Bobcat boys are winners of their last seven straight, with their latest victory being an 8-3 win over CIML Iowa Conference rival Mason City at home on Friday afternoon.

Marshalltown head boys tennis coach James Christensen said his Bobcats (8-2, 3-1) is looking healthy and strong as they approach the final week of the regular season, and they are happy to finally get a win over the Mohawks (3-5, 0-3).

“Mason City has been a nemesis, they are a team we have struggled to beat over the last few years. I believe this is our senior’s first win over them, which says a lot about how good of a team they are,” he said. “They’ve got great players at the top that gave us a lot of trouble today, but being able to come out of singles on top 4-2 gave us enough juice to carry through to the 8-3 victory we ended up with.”

As Christensen said, after the singles matches Marshalltown had a 4-2 advantage. All of the victories were in straight-sets, with Luke McKibben winning at No. 2 singles, 6-4, 6-2, against James Matthews, Luke Smith beating Joey Hansen at No. 3, 6-3, 6-1, Jacob Smith prevailing at No. 5 over Lucas Pistek, 6-3, 6-3, and Jacob Eberle pulling off a 6-4, 6-2, win at No. 6 against Lane Kruger.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“We got the win from all over the place, really,” Christensen said. “Luke McKibben stepped up when he needed to, Luke Smith came through and fought through some confidence issues and was able to finish it out.”

McKibben, one half of the state-qualifying doubles team alongside Luke Smith from last year, competed in his first meet at home of the season after having a setback with a shoulder and pectoral injury earlier in the year. Christensen said there were some nerves for McKibben playing on his home court for the first time, but he quickly worked through that.

“He starts off down 0-3 and is biting his racket out there, but we calmed him down a little bit and he found the groove and was able to win a lot of close points,” Christensen said. “He played smart tennis, probably some of the smartest tennis I’ve seen in his career.”

McKibben and Luke Smith were pushed in their No. 2 doubles match against Matthews and Hansen, with the Bobcat duo taking the first set 6-1 and narrowly winning the second 7-6 in a tiebreaker.

Eberle and Jacob Smith had a good showing in their doubles match as well, as the pair defeated Pistek and Travis Brick, 6-4, 6-4, and Christensen said the foundation for run of success his team has seen starts with those two at the end of the singles lineup.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“Jacob Smith is playing really good tennis right now, same with Jacob Eberle. Both of them took care of singles and followed it up with a great doubles win as well,” he said. “Having those two guys, who have such weird play styles, they are big. Jacob Smith played No. 4 singles for us last year and was very successful. Jacob Eberle could honestly play anywhere from 2-6 for us and find success against a lot of teams. It’s just an absolute luxury to be able to be confident in those Nos. 5 and 6 guys and think, ‘they got this.'”

Ethan Benscoter and Nic Price were 6-0, 6-2, victors at No. 4 doubles and Colin Schmit and John Loney had the most dramatic win of the meet, pulling off a 2-6, 6-4, (10-6) comeback victory at No. 6 doubles.

“Seeing Colin Schmit and John Loney out there coming back and winning the super tiebreaker, that’s awesome. They really competed well,” Christensen said.

Marshalltown found out its postseason fate on Thursday, as the Bobcats will travel to Cedar Rapids Prairie on May 8 for its district meet. Christensen said facing the likes of Cedar Falls, Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids Prairie will be a challenge, but luckily the end of their regular season schedule should help prepare the boys for the challenge.

“It’s a very tough district that we drew, we are going to need to get a lot better from now until then. We have to refine some things to get that done, but our guys know that we just need to show up and play,” he said. “We are going to be competing against a lot of great teams in the next couple of days with Waukee and Ames coming around next week. That’s going to test us and expose some of those weaknesses but we will have a little time to work on those and if we can sure some of those things up I see no reason we can’t duplicate our success from last year.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

Marshalltown 8, Mason City 3

At Marshalltown

Singles

Brian VandenBerg (MC) def. Jack Gruening 6-1, 6-0

Luke McKibben (MHS) def. James Matthews, 6-4, 6-2

Luke Smith (MHS) def. Joey Hanen, 6-3, 6-1

Caden Rodning (MC) def. Kevin Strand, 0-6, 7-6 (5), (10-7)

Jacob Smith (MHS) def. Lucas Pistek, 6-3, 6-3

Jacob Eberle (MHS) def. Lane Kruger, 6-4, 6-2

Doubles

VandenBerg and Rodning (MC) def. Gruening and Strand, 6-3, 6-3

McKibben and L. Smith (MHS) def. Matthews and Hansen, 6-1, 7-6

J. Smith and Eberle (MHS) def. Pistek and Travis Brick, 6-4, 6-4

Ethan Benscoter and Nic Price (MHS) def. Kruger and Zach Mulholland, 6-0, 6-2

Colin Schmit and John Loney (MHS) def. J.J. Wickman and Jackson Wickman, 2-6, 6-4, (10-6)