It’s been a big season for coach Erick Zehr’s Newton girls tennis team. A year after losing close meet after close meet, his Cardinal girls have shown their grit, their determination and, most notably, their talent.
The team came in to its home meet against Pella Christian on Tuesday knowing that a win would put a Little Hawkeye Conference title well within reach. As it has played out all season long, the Cardinals stepped up, beating PC 7-4 and needing to win just one of their final two meets to lock up the title.
“I'm so proud of what our girls were able to accomplish today,” Zehr said. “We lost so many close meets last year, despite playing well, and we have found ways to reverse our fortunes this year. We've won the close meets this year despite not playing well at times because of our heart and determination. There were several tipping points in the meet tonight, and our girls were able to handle the pressure well and tip the meet in our favor in each. This was a great night for our girls and for the program. Hopefully we can take care of business against Knoxville and Oskaloosa to bring home our second conference title in three years.”
The girls lost just two matches on the singles ladder. No. 1 player Katelyn Camp got some rest with a day off on Monday and it proved to be beneficial as she won the most lopsided match of the day, 6-3, 6-2. In the No. 2 spot, Jennifer Ventling dropped the first set 4-6, but bounced back in the second set, 6-2, and won in a tie break 1(7). Katelin Klyn took one of the two singles losses for the Cardinals, losing to Jora Vander Hart 2-6, 3-6. Holly Vander Pol won in the four slot 6-4, 5-7, 1(8). Krystal Mapes won in yet another tiebreak 6-4, 5-7, 1(8). Caitlin Combs fell to Claire Van Welden in the final singles match 4-6, 1-6.
“Katelyn played excellent against Paige Engbers, who has a unique slice shot that she incorporates regularly. Her singles game is really polishing up well as the season comes to a close,” Zehr said. “Jennifer was frustrated in the first set, losing a deuce point down 4-5 to drop the set. She regrouped for the second, played more aggresive, and made some adjustments to help break Andrea DeBruin. Holly played one of her best matches of the season. Krystal played a marathon match that took 1:45, with each point taking several minutes at times. She won the 3rd set by only 2 points, being the closest match of the day.”
The Cardinals won three of their five doubles matches, but ultimately, that’s all they needed to do to get the team victory. Camp/Klyn fell in a quick match 2-6, 1-6. Ventling/Vander Pol rolled through their opponents 6-1, 6-0. Combs/Mapes battled in the first set, losing 3-6 and couldn’t quite put up as much of a fight in the second, losing 1-6. Kate Hinshaw and Monica Corso dominated in their 6-3, 6-0 win. Sydney Griffith and McKenna Heisdorffer won their match 6-3, 6-3.
The Cardinals travel to Knoxville on Thursday with a chance to seal up the conference title. If they can’t get it done then, they will have another chance on May 13 at Oskaloosa. The LHC conference tournament will take place on Monday afternoon in Pella, with Newton being the host school.