We had great success at Substate tennis this weekend. Here is an update from coach Briggs:
Pioneers Prevail Against Rival Pella — 5-3, Punch Ticket to State Finals
By defeating North Polk and Pella on Saturday, the Maharishi Pioneers tennis team added to their record of the most trips to the state finals in Iowa history.
“It was far from easy,” exhaled Pioneer coach, Steve Briggs. “Our backs were to the wall, but sometimes that’s when the magic happens.”
After defeating North Polk 5-2 in the morning, the Pioneers turned their attention to their longtime rival, Pella, who had thwarted the Pioneers bid for a state final birth in 2017.
“Leaving Fairfield at 6:30 am to play Pella in their backyard may not seem like an ideal way to spend a Saturday,” said Briggs, “but I told the team that these are the best possible moments for an athlete because they offer a chance to rise to levels we might never have experienced before.”
The Pioneers kept on rising until they captured a 5-3 win over a tenacious Pella squad. In the singles pairings, Maharishi swept positions 1, 2, and 3 while Pella returned the favor at 4, 5, and 6.
Just prior to the start of the doubles matches, thunderstorms rolled through Pella, forcing the teams to shuttle to Oskaloosa to finish the meet at an indoor facility. “Our team loves playing indoors so the coaches viewed it as a good omen.”
“We sent our top two teams out, feeling confident that Kai and Daniel would pick up a point for us, but no one was expecting the absolute demolition of a very capable Pella team,” said Briggs. “Our guys literally didn’t miss a ball the entire match, winning 6-0, 6-0. I think Pella was in shock!”
Vessey and Zhu’s win left the Pioneers needing just one point to punch their tickets to the state finals. The Pioneers hopes rested in the hands of Devan Burke and David Zhang, a relatively new combo that had not played together much during the regular season. When Pella jumped out to a 4-1 lead, things looked bleak for the Pioneers.
“We were out of sync… unable to find the flow,” assessed Briggs. “We were pressing, but sometimes it takes a few gritty, blue-collar points to turn things around, and that’s what our guys came up with. From being down 1-4 in the opening set, Devan took matters into his hands and dominated the match with all-out aggression. David’s steady play perfectly complimented Devan’s forcefulness. You never know how the chemistry of a new team will hold up under pressure, but Devan and David lifted each other up… it was gratifying to watch.”
The Pioneers #2 team nearly matched the performance of their teammates, Kai and Daniel. From a 4-1 deficit, the Pioneers #2 ran off 11 straight games to take the match, 6-4, 6-0.
“Running the table with a trip to Des Moines on the line is difficult,” stated Briggs. “Everything we do is geared toward reaching the state finals, and every person on the team knows what’s at stake in the final doubles matches. To play your absolute best tennis with everything on the line is extraordinary… and to have all four guys do it at the same time is more than we coaches could ask for. Kai, Daniel, Devan, and David all found their peak performance in Oskaloosa. As Devan said afterward, ‘I can’t believe how good this feels.’
“We buried a ghost or two today,” laughed Briggs, referring to the past two years when the Pioneers were within a whisker of reaching the state finals.
“To see our seniors celebrating was cool,” said Briggs. “Those guys do everything together. They’re great friends on and off the court… and they represent our community so well. The group of parents and school administrators who witnessed the match will have a sweet memory. Sometimes the parents don’t get enough credit, but they’ve been there for the team all these years and you can feel the love and appreciation they have for the team.”
The Pioneers will make yet another record-breaking trip to Des Moines on May 29th.
Maharishi – Pella
#1 Kai Vessey def Jordan Roozeboom 6-1, 6-1
#2 Devan Burke def Colton Edwards6-2, 6-1
#3 Daniel Zhu def Jack Edwards6-4, 6-0
#4 David Zhang lost to Carter Briggs6-3, 6-3
#5 Karthik Vempati lost to Isaiah Martin6-4, 6-2
#6 Frank Wang lost to Austin Adrian6-1, 6-0
#1 Vessey/ZhudefRoozeboom/J. Edwards6-0, 6-0
#2 Burke/ZhangdefC. Edwards/Briggs6-4, 6-0
The State Singles and Doubles tournament is Friday and Saturday, May 25 & 26, 9:00 at Byrnes Park Tennis Center, 1110 Campbell Ave, Waterloo (Daniel Zhu in singles, Kai Vessey and Devan Burke in doubles).
The State Team Final Four is Tuesday, May 29th, 8:15, at Waveland Park, 4822 Observatory Rd, Des Moines.
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