Bobcat duo out to do damage in 2A doubles

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - Marshalltown’s Isaac Benscoter, left, and Jacob Thiessen compete in the Class 2A state doubles tournament starting Tuesday at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center in Iowa City.

The Marshalltown boys’ tennis team was denied state qualification for the first time since COVID canceled the spring season of 2020, but Marshalltown was not totally shut out. MHS senior Jacob Thiessen and junior Isaac Benscoter will team up for the Class 2A state doubles competition starting today at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center in Iowa City.

Marshalltown’s top tandem takes a 9-8 record into the state doubles bracket, where it was drawn to face the defending state champions from Waukee Northwest in the opening round.

Determined to make it to Day 2, the Bobcats are still looking forward to another shot at the Wolves’ Kellan Croatt and Jake Nelson.

State singles and doubles play begins at 10 a.m. on the University of Iowa campus.

“Physically they’ve had the tools,” MHS head coach James Christensen said of his No. 1 pair. “JT (Thiessen) is one of the most talented tennis players I’ve ever had, and Isaac has worked his tail off since he’s been in eighth grade to put himself in this position.

“Really it’s the mental game I think that has taken them to the next level — just being able to embrace the sort of teams they’re having to play each and every time they go out there, they know it’s going to be a dogfight. To be able to raise their game to that level, rather than thinking about how tough it’s going to be, I think they see it as more of an opportunity to prove the tennis they’re able to play and I think that’s a positive for them.”

Benscoter and Thiessen endured a long and windy road as Marshalltown’s top singles players this season, going 5-7 and 6-7, respectively. Despite the difficulties at the top of the Bobcats’ batting order, the duo was determined to do their damage in doubles play.

Benscoter and Thiessen finished as district runners-up, falling in a three-set thriller to Brady Frye and Andrew Scott of Dowling Catholic in the title bout. A win there would have helped the Bobcat pair avoid Croatt and Nelson in the opening round, but that’s not how it came out.

“Obviously we would have liked to have won districts, but we’ve shown we can compete with pretty much everybody except the No. 1 doubles team from Northwest,” Benscoter said, three days before the state seeding meeting was conducted. “I think that gives us confidence. I think our first goal, which I think is really possible, is getting top-eight, making it to that second day and placing as a doubles team.

“The dream scenario is that we win two matches on Tuesday and make the final four.”

Thiessen, even before the draw was announced, was almost eager for another shot at Northwest.

“He’s kind of negative on that Northwest team, but you know, I think we can compete with anybody so I think we should go into it and try to get those wins on Tuesday and make it to Wednesday,” Thiessen said.

It hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows for Benscoter and Thiessen as a doubles team. Benscoter pointed out their many failures as a young tandem when Benscoter was a freshman and Thiessen a sophomore.

“It really didn’t go that well,” he noted. “I think we lost pretty much all of them, but it’s been a ton of fun. I think we’ve done a lot better than we expected to. We expected to make state, but I think we’ve played really well. I think we’ve shown that we can compete with those guys at the top and we’re really looking forward to surprising some people.”

Benscoter said the prospect of making it to state doubles with Thiessen was on his mind immediately after the 2023 spring season ended. Thiessen says it began back before they were even in high school.

“I think the summer before freshman year we used to come out here and hit with each other and we’d talk about how when I was a senior and he was a junior we were going to go to state and we were going to win state,” Thiessen said. “We still have the hopes of winning state, but we’ve accomplished half of the goal and it’d be nice to win, but that’s not really what we’re focusing on. We’re just focused on playing as best as we can as a doubles team and doing the most damage we can at state.”

Christensen said the team is preparing to take it to their counterparts from Waukee Northwest instead of conserving energy for the first round of consolation play. Croatt and Nelson beat the Bobcats 6-0, 6-2, in their regular-season meeting, and they haven’t lost a set since last year’s state finals.

“We know the sort of challenge we’re up against but we played pretty well against them earlier this year,” Christensen said. “The most games anybody’s got on these guys all year is three, but we’ve risen to those sorts of challenges before and we also know it’s a double-elimination tournament so we can’t feel sorry for ourselves about drawing the returning state champions.

“We need to show up and play our absolute best and be ready for whichever opponent shows up next.”


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