DES MOINES — It might sound shocking, but for the first time this century, the Newton girls tennis team has won a regional match.
Just three years after being shut out on wins for the entire season, the Little Hawkeye Conference regular season and tournament champion Cardinals traveled to Lincoln High in Des Moines on Saturday morning and took down the host Railsplitters, 5-2.
In the first-to-five wins matchup, the Cards only needed seven matches to close out their counterparts from Des Moines. It was an incredibly windy day on the courts, with gusts topping out at close to 50 miles per hour. The wind made it difficult to judge high-bouncing or softly hit shots, but the girls held their form to the finish, and allowed Cardinals coach Erick Zehr to celebrate the accomplishment of his preseason goal for the girls.
“Getting a regional win is a goal I have had for our program for a long time,” Zehr said. “It is unfortunate that we have to play in Class 2A for the postseason, but at the same time, I think it creates new and difficult challenges for us. I don’t know the last Newton team to win a regional match, but I’m fairly certain it has been quite a while. We aren’t done yet, but this will be another thing this special team will be remembered for.”
The singles ladder went Newton’s way 4-2. Katelyn Camp began the day against Emily Cox, one of the top players in the state, and although she lost 6-0, 6-0, almost every game went to deuce at one point. Jennifer Ventling beat Gracie Benton 6-4, 7-6 (2). Benton was able to use the wind on drop shots at the net, but Ventling was able to pull out the win in straight sets.
Katelin Klyn lost a tough match 6-7, 6-3, 0 (5) to Madeline Jannes. The loss was a controversial one, as Zehr pointed out, because several controversial line calls by Jannes.
“Katelin’s match was the one with the fireworks,” Zehr said. “Jannes was calling very tight lines, several of which were incorrect, and it caused quite a bit of tension between the two players. One was so bad that her teammates who were spectating influenced her to correct her own call and give Katelin the point. Katelin was able to stay calm through all of it, however, and fought back from down 2-5 in the first to force a tiebreaker, which she lost close.”
Holly Vander Pol won her match easily, 6-3, 6-2. Krystal Mapes had the only shutout set for the Cardinals in her 6-2, 6-0 victory. Caitlin Combs rounded out the singles wins with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Brooke Wilson.
The Cards then needed only one doubles match to get the victory as Mapes/Combs polished off Wilson and Kellie Murtle 6-4, 6-2.
“Mapes/Combs were up 5-0 when they took their foot off the gas and let their opponents win 4 straight games,” Zehr said. “Needing a win at 5-4, they were able to pull it out and take the first set. Fortunately the second set went smoother, and they would take the set, match, and ultimately, win the meet.”
The next step for the Cards will be the individual regional meet on Thursday in Ankeny. The Cardinals will send their top six players to compete and try to qualify for state in either singles or doubles.