The West High doubles team of Kyle Appel and Blake Oetting trusted their ability, and it proved to be enough to upend the defending state champions Saturday in the Class 2A championships at Coe College.
Appel and Oetting beat top-seeded Ames seniors Alex Qin and Tommy Pitcher 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.
“We were really nervous in the first set and overplaying,” Appel said. “We were trying for stuff that was unrealistic. We settled down in the second set and played within ourselves.”
It was the first singles or doubles title for Trojans tennis since 2007.
“The doubles draw this year is probably as deep as I’ve ever seen,” West coach Mitch Gross said. “Most of the big guns went doubles. This is a big, big win for Kyle and Blake.”
Appel and Oetting beat third seed Mitch Blades and Jackson Hoyt of Cedar Rapid Washington in the semifinals Saturday morning 6-3, 6-2.
It set up a rematch with Qin and Pitcher. The Ames duo beat Oetting and Appel two years ago to clinch the 2A team title.
“That was definitely painful,” Oetting said. “It was great to beat them here at the state championships.”
Two years ago, Appel was third in 2A singles, and Oetting was fifth in 2A singles last year. The duo decided to team up in doubles this season.
“It was my decision,” Appel said. “Coach gives seniors the choice, and I chose to go with Blake. We wanted this.”
It looked like Qin and Pitcher would win another state title after the first set, breaking West’s serve three times to win 6-1.
“I wish I could take credit for the turnaround,” Gross said. “I told them to switch it up, and they didn’t.
“I think the difference was, we started executing, and Ames didn’t. Ames kind of came down a little bit, and we brought our game up and never let go.”
The teams were tied 2-2 in the second set when the Trojans broke Pitch’s serve and won four straight games.
“We just switched up the pace a little bit,” Appel said. “We added some top spin so we’d hit it at their feet a little more, then they’d hit it up and we’d put it away.”
Both Appel and Oetting prefer to play back during doubles, hitting hard volleys.
Oetting had plenty of fist-pumping shots at key moments in the third set, pushing them ahead 3-1 when they were down 40-15 in the fourth game.
He also had several knockout shots to make it 5-2, breaking Pitch’s serve.
“It was the best I’ve seen Blake play all year,” Gross said. “His gamesmanship, making shots … and most importantly, getting into it. It was the most pumped up I’ve ever seen him. It was awesome.”
Qin and Pitcher on Friday beat West’s second doubles team, juniors Adam Dellos and Trent Schneider. The duo battled back Saturday to take fifth place.
West sophomore David DiLeo placed fourth in singles action. He lost to top seed and eventual champion Brady Anderson of Linn-Mar in the semifinals 6-2, 6-3, then lost to Ames senior Alex Huang in the consolation match 6-4, 7-6 (4).
“David was one of the more explosive players on the court on Friday,” Gross said. “He was playing better than everyone.”
On Friday, DiLeo beat Sam Rice of Southeast Polk 6-0, 6-0, then beat Andy Mong of Cedar Falls 6-0, 6-3.
In that third-place match, DiLeo was up 5-4 in the second set, but couldn’t force a third set.
“I tried to keep the balls in more and move him a little more and tire him down,” DiLeo said. “He’s just a good player and he got me today.”
Fourth place was a step up for DiLeo, who didn’t make it to state a year ago
“It was something to build on,” Gross said. “For Tuesday and next year.”
West High continues its season at the 2A State Team Tennis Tournament on Tuesday in Ankeny. The Trojans face West Des Moines Valley at 8:30 a.m. Ames and Cedar Falls are in the other 2A semifinal.
West High is the defending team champions.
Class 2A State Tennis
Saturday at Coe College
Semifinals – Brady Anderson (LM) def. David DiLeo (West) 6-2, 6-3; Charlie Humes (PV) def. Alex Huang (Ames) 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.
Championship – Anderson (LM) def. Humes (PV) 6-0, 6-0.
Third-place – Huang (Ames) def. DiLeo (West) 6-4, 7-6(4).
Consolation semifinals – Jackson Guilford (Indianola) def. Tim Paulson (LM) 6-4, 6-1; Ryan Shomo (Marshalltown) def. Andrew Ellis (Ames) 7-6(5), 6-1.
Fifth-place – Guilford (Indianola) def. Shomo (Marshalltown) 6-1, 6-3.
Seventh-place – Ellis (Ames) def. Paulson (LM) 6-3, 6-4.
Semifinals – Alex Qin/Tommy Pitcher (Ames) def. James McManus/Roy Ju (CF) 6-2, 6-1; Kyle Appel/Blake Oetting (West) def. Mitch Blades/Jackson Hoyt (CRW) 6-3, 6-2.
Championship – Appel/Oetting (West) def. Qin/Pitcher (Ames) 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Third-place – McManus/Ju (CF) def. Blades/Hoyt (CRW) 6-1, 6-1.
Consolation semifinals – Adam Dellos/Trent Schneider (West) def. Ryan Peterson/Yasha Livtak (WDMV) 6-3, 6-4; Jacob Kruse/Ryan Schroeder (Clinton) def. Jake Kuyper/Mike Sylvester (Waukee) 6-4, 6-4.
Fifth-place – Dellos/Schneider (West) def. Kruse/Schroeder (Clinton) 6-1, 6-3.
Seventh-place – Peterson/Litvak (WDMV) def. Kuyper/Sylvester (Waukee) 6-2, 6-3.