Wolves bounce Bobcats in quarters

Top-rated Waukee Northwest eliminates No. 8 Marshalltown in 2A team tennis quarterfinals

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - The Marshalltown High School boys’ tennis team poses with its Class 2A state team tennis participant trophy after bowing out in the quarterfinals for the third year in a row. The No. 8 seed Bobcats fell 5-0 to top-seeded Waukee Northwest on Wednesday in Waukee. Pictured, from left, are Gavin Jablonski, Nile Christensen, assistant coach Thad Lents, Isaac Benscoter, Jason Strand, head coach James Christensen, Drew Loney, Jacob Thiessen, Carson Snyder, Jaxson Eisenbarth and assistant coach Aaron Benscoter.

WAUKEE — Marshalltown boys tennis played some of its best tennis of the season on Wednesday morning.

But it didn’t show in the final score against a top-ranked opponent from Waukee Northwest, as the Wolves won 5-0 on their home court in a quarterfinal matchup of the Class 2A team tennis state tournament at Waukee Northwest High School.

The Wolves returned four from last season’s third-place finish in the 2A tournament in their inaugural season of competition, and were coming off a successful singles/doubles tournament last week with Kaden Taylor winning the singles championship and Kellan Croatt and Jake Nelson winning the doubles title.

“That’s a daunting task,” MHS head coach James Christensen said. “But I thought the guys rose to the challenge today. We were in every game, every point, … and that’s all I asked from the guys today was to compete, which they’ve done all year. A lot of our guys are self taught, haven’t been to club tennis their whole lives. So they just go out there, compete, and give it their all. It wasn’t enough today, but I think everyone would agree we played a good match.”

Taylor defeated Jason Strand, 6-1, 6-2, at No. 1 singles. Nelson swept Nile Christensen, 6-0, 6-0, and Croatt was on the cusp of a straight-set victory over Gavin Jablonski when the Wolves reached five points to end the dual early.

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Marshalltown senior Jason Strand hustles to a forehand volley during his No. 1 singles match against Kaden Taylor of Waukee Northwest during Wednesday’s Class 2A state team tennis quarterfinal match. Taylor, the reigning state singles champion, defeated Strand 6-1, 6-2.

Isaac Benscoter fell to Miles Steffensmeier, 6-0, 6-3, and Drew Loney dropped a 6-0, 6-1 match to Vivek Kothari. MHS junior Jacob Thiessen took the most games from his opponent, before falling 6-2, 6-4 to Swaroop Panda.

“Coach told us that we’re the underdogs here, that there’s no pressure on us,” said Strand, one of four seniors playing their final matches as Bobcats on Wednesday. “But there’s still a full expectation to go out and play our absolute best. And I think we did that and showed the state what Marshalltown is made of.”

The entire Marshalltown team was also able to enjoy community support ahead of Wednesday’s match with the new format that brought eight teams to a single location instead of playing the quarterfinals immediately following the substate finals.

“We had a lot of time to prepare ourselves, even if we didn’t know right away who we’d face,” Strand said. “That gave us extra time that really allowed for community support and got us some extra practices that were really beneficial to all of us.”

Strand, Loney, Jablonski and Nile Christensen represented the Bobcat seniors on Wednesday that helped lead Marshalltown to its third-consecutive state team tournament appearance. Jaxson Eisenbarth, Clay Goecke, Kaden Ricken and Cael Sandvick were also seniors on the Marshalltown roster this season.

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Marshalltown’s Jacob Thiessen makes a backhand volley during his singles match with Swaroop Panda on Thursday at Waukee Northwest. Panda won the match, 6-2, 6-4.

“It’s been a blessing to work with these kids every day,” coach Christensen said. “Not a single year went by without sending guys to individual state and making team state. I think it’ll always bug them a bit that they never finished in the top four, but that’s OK, we don’t always make every single goal that we set and I think that’ll drive them into different pursuits.”

While Strand and the other seniors would’ve liked to play their freshman season that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the addition of the Marshalltown Court Complex was key to the Bobcats’ growth as a program.

“We were all kind of new to high school tennis as sophomores, but we’ve come a long way since then,” Strand said. “We started out as nervous guys doing what other people said and now we’re the captains helping others improve and making them the new leaders of our team.

“And the coaches’ ability to relate to their players is what makes so many come out for tennis and makes the energy high in practice and in meets. I’m gonna miss it. But I think we went out in a good way.”

Strand understands that next year’s Bobcat returners, including Benscoter and Thiessen, may wonder how to go on without this year’s senior group.

“We lost a lot of good people last year, and we didn’t know how we were going to come out this year,” Strand said. “But everybody stepped up, and I know that we can continue to do it again. I’m excited to see the underclassmen and this year’s juniors continue to play this summer. And I know if they do that and continue to grow as a team and as friends, they’ll be in good shape next season.”

Iowa High School Boys State Tennis Team Tournament


At Waukee

Wednesday, May 31


Waukee Northwest 5, Marshalltown 0

Linn-Mar 5, WDM Valley 3

Iowa City West 5, Cedar Falls 0

Pleasant Valley 5, CR Washington 0


Waukee Northwest 5, Linn-Mar 0

Iowa City West 5, Pleasant Valley 0

Thursday, June 1

Third Place

Linn-Mar vs. Pleasant Valley, 9 a.m.


Waukee N’west vs. Iowa City West, 10 a.m.


At Iowa City

Wednesday, May 31


Pella 5, Ballard 0

Wahlert Catholic, Dubuque 5, Spencer 4

Xavier, Cedar Rapids 5, Glenwood 2

Decorah 5, Boone 0


Pella 5, Dubuque Wahlert 0

Cedar Rapids Xavier 5, Decorah 0

Thursday, June 1

Third Place

Decorah vs. Dubuque Wahlert, 9 a.m.


Pella vs. Cedar Rapids Xavier, 10 a.m.


Waukee Northwest 5, Marshalltown 0

At Waukee


Kaden Taylor (WNW) def. Jason Strand, 6-1, 6-2

Jake Nelson (WNW) def. Nile Christensen, 6-0, 6-0

Swaroop Panda (WNW) def. Jacob Thiessen, 6-2, 6-4

Miles Steffensmeier (WNW) def. Isaac Benscoter, 6-0, 6-3

Vivek Kothari (WNW) def. Drew Loney, 6-0, 6-1


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