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Cardinals drop competitive semifinal matches at regionals

Published: Friday, May 23, 2014 11:28 a.m. CDT

ANKENY — Newton girls’ tennis coach Erick Zehr described Thursday’s regional tennis meet for the Cardinals as “bittersweet”.

Newton had an entry in three of the four semifinal matches — as many entries as any team at the regional meet — but the Cardinals lost all three semifinals matches, preventing any of the players from qualifying for the state meet.

“We had lots of ups and downs throughout the day,” Zehr said. “Looking at sending anywhere from 0 to 5 players to state [and] everyone came up just short.”

All three of Newton’s semifinal entries lost in straight sets. Newton’s Maria Valbuena, who was seeded third at the tournament (the top four seeds receive first-round byes), lost to Roosevelt’s Shivani Kumaresan, 3-6, 5-7.

Valbuena beat Ankeny Centennial’s Kayla Peterson in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-2, to advance to the semis.

“The two played a fantastic match,” Zehr said of Valbuena’s semifinal match. “Very competitive and played at a very high level. Long rallies, lots of power, spin and angles from the baseline.  Kumaresan played with more spin and precision, and Maria played with more power.  In the end, Kumaresan was just too tough...”

Newton’s doubles team of Monica and Kayla Corso played what Zehr described as “amazing” in the quarterfinals and beat Ankeny, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0.

“Their opponents were very good, and played with lots of spin and power, but Monica and Kayla played amazing,” Zehr said. “Their ground strokes did a great job of passing the net players, and they were lights out at the net.

The Corso’s run ended in the next round, however, as they lost to Des Moines Roosevelt’s Mary Hill and Meera Prasad, 0-6, 2-6.

The Cardinals’ other doubles duo of Jennifer Ventling and Holly Vander Pol beat Roosevelt’s second doubles team, 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Then in the semifinals, Ventling and Vander Pol lost to Norwalk’s Sam and Sarah Roemer, 0-6, 2-6. Zehr said a couple of “contentious line call disputes” distracted Ventling and Vander Pol and “took away from the quality of the match.”

McKenna Heisdorffer, Newton’s other singles player who competed at regionals, was the only Cardinal who didn’t earn a seed. She played Ankeny’s Peri Benna in the opening round and lost in straight sets.

“[Heisdorffer] fought hard,” Zehr said, “but her opponent played well and made many more shots than I was expecting.

“We definitely step up a significant level in competition, but everyone played well today and just barely didn’t get a chance to play at state.