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Marshalltown girls tennis team rebounds with 8-3 win over Ankeny

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown sophomore Mary Kate Gruening, foreground, makes a play at the net while senior Emily Miller covers the back line during their No. 1 doubles match against Ankeny on Tuesday in Marshalltown. Gruening and Miller pulled off a come-from-behind victory to win their doubles match in three sets.

The first time the Marshalltown girls tennis team lost this season, it immediately went on a five-meet winning streak before suffering its second loss of the year to West Des Moines Valley last Thursday.

On Tuesday the Bobcats had a chance to show their ability to rebound again, and they did so in a big way with an 8-3 victory over Ankeny.

It was a gritty performance by the MHS girls as well, with four of the eight wins coming in third-set tiebreakers and seven of the 11 total matches going to the third set, including every doubles match. Bobcat head girls tennis coach John Fiscus said he was proud of the way his girls gutted one out against the Hawks on Tuesday.

“We had a lot of tiebreakers, especially in doubles. Every single doubles team went to a third-set tiebreaker, and we got three of the five,” he said. “That’s a big thing, battling to the end is important and they are evenly matched with us, so an 8-3 victory sounds great for us because we won the most important matches.”

The top of the lineup came up huge for Marshalltown (6-2), especially No. 1 singles competitor Emily Miller.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown junior Olivia Brintnall, left, makes a running save on the ball in front of Bobcat head girls tennis coach John Fiscus during her singles match in Marshalltown’s 8-3 win over Ankeny on Tuesday in Marshalltown.

Miller took an easy 6-0 win in her first single set against Karly Weber, but Weber responded with a 6-2 win in the second set, forcing the match into the tiebreaker. Before starting the tiebreaker, Miller said he took a minute to gather herself and remind herself of the outcome of the first set.

“I kind of just wanted to get it over with,” Miller said. “I knew that I beat her 6-0 in the first set and I just thought I could play that well in a tiebreaker, and I could push through and get it.”

She did just that, falling behind 3-1 early in the tiebreaker before ripping off six-straight points before eventually winning 10-4 and taking the match.

Mary Kate Gruening also had a nice response in her match at No. 2 singles. She fell down 3-1 early in the first set to Audrey Penningroth, but Gruening would win five of the next six games to win the first set, 6-4, then she kept the momentum going for a 6-1 victory in the second.

Gruening said as she continued to play against Penningroth, she realized that she could compete with her Hawk foe.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown senior Stella Roseburrough Borras makes a running backhanded hit on the ball during her and Carly Streets’ No. 5 doubles match in the Bobcats’ 8-3 win over Ankeny on Tuesday in Marshalltown.

“I think I just got more comfortable playing and I knew I could play a lot better, so I think I just changed my mindset and really tried to play to win and hit it hard,” she said.

Madi Finch at No. 3, Olivia Brintnall at No. 4 and Grace Fisher at No. 5 were all also straight-set winners in their singles matches.

The doubles were where things got interesting, and it all started in the No. 5 match. Carly Streets and Stella Roseburrough Borras, who have been a solid No. 5 doubles team for Marshalltown, dropped the first set to Lauren Willets and Corinne Bovee, 6-3. They bounced back in the second set for a 6-4 victory, however, and by the third-set tiebreaker all the momentum was with Streets and Roseburrough Borras and they rolled through for a 10-3 victory, securing the sixth match win and the meet win in the process.

Fisher and Jillian Lang also had a fight on their hands at No. 3 doubles against Ryne Bete and Morgan Luther, but after losing the first set, 5-7, Fisher and Lang pulled off a 6-4 win in set two and eventually took the third, 10-5.

The biggest comeback came at No. 1 doubles. Miller and Gruening competed well in the first set but eventually dropped it, 6-4, then in the second set they found themselves in a 5-2 hole and were staring down match-point with a 40-0 deficit. Instead of punting on the match, however, Miller and Gruening started the long fight back, fighting off that 40-0 hole and eventually winning that game. By the time they looked up, the duo had tied the second set at 5-5, and they eventually forced it into a tiebreaker where they won, 11-9. After making that comeback, it was almost a given that Miller and Gruening would win the third set, and they did by a 10-8 advantage.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

Miller said the duo were able to fight off elimination and eventually win because of the chemistry they have built this season.

“I think that Mary Kate and I just communicate really well,” she said. “We were talking to each other saying, ‘don’t get nervous,’ and we were talking to coach Fiscus and he said, ‘don’t get nervous, just play to win, don’t try to overthink it,’ so I think that we just kind of hunkered down and got it done.”

For Gruening, she said the key was to get out of her own head and just play tennis.

“Personally, I just stopped overthinking it, I just wanted to play to win and hit it as hard as I could, and we started playing really well together,” she said. “I think that’s when we really turned it around.”

Fiscus said one of the reasons his girls were able to be so successful in tiebreakers against the Hawks is the way he approaches his meetings with the girls between games.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“My whole thing is to keep it positive, not yell at them and tell them that, ‘you’ve got to do it this way and that,'” he said. “I’ve learned over the years to not do that because then they start thinking so much about that and fall apart. It’s about keeping positive, keep doing what you can do and don’t overplay.”

The win was the sixth for the Bobcats this season, just one win shy of matching last season’s seven victories. It was also the fifth-straight home victory for Marshalltown, something that Fiscus said he and the girls are proud of.

“It’s awesome, it’s great that we’ve been able to win all of our matches at home so far this year. That’s the way we like to have it,” he said. “We had a great season last year also, and we are only one victory away from tying last year’s record already. I see us hopefully beating that record soon.”

MHS will have four tries to get that seventh win left on the schedule, including one more chance to win at home with a date against Waverly-Shell Rock on May 6. Before that match is a long road trip up to Mason City on Thursday, however, and Fiscus said for the girls who won and the girls who lost, it’s important to reflect on their matches and learn from them.

“Every meet, every match you play, you’ve got to take something from it,” he said. “Something good that you do or even if something bad happens, you’ve got to look at it and make the best from it and say, ‘I’m not going to have that happen again, what can I do to make myself better in my next match?'”

The Bobcats will battle the Mohawks on Thursday in Mason City, starting at 4 p.m.

Marshalltown 8, Ankeny 3

At Marshalltown

Singles

Emily Miller (MHS) def. Karly Weber, 6-0, 2-6, (10-4)

Mary Kate Gruening (MHS) def. Audrey Penningroth, 6-4, 6-1

Madi Finch (MHS) def. Morgan Luther, 6-3, 6-1

Olivia Brintnall (MHS) def. Reilly Johnson, 6-3, 6-4

Grace Fisher (MHS) def. Lydia Blatt, 6-2, 7-5

Haley Grubb (A) def. Hel Ter, 6-2, 6-7 (2), (10-4)

Doubles

Miller and Gruening (MHS) def. Weber and Penningroth, 4-6, 7-6 (9), (10-8)

Johnson and Blatt (A) def. Finch and Brintnall, 5-7, 6-1, (10-8)

Fisher and Jillian Lang (MHS) def. Luther and Ryne Bete, 5-7, 6-4, (10-5)

Olivia Babcock and Kaci Behrens (A) def. Ter and America Dominguez, 3-6, 6-4, (10-4)

Carly Streets and Stella Roseburrough Borras (MHS) def. Lauren Willets and Corinne Bovee, 3-6, 6-4, (10-3)