After a third-place finish at the state tournament last year, the Des Moines Roosevelt girls’ tennis team didn’t take long in deciding what was required to make a return trip. The Roughriders returned every starter. They had postseason experience.
Roosevelt not only advanced to state again, but also won the Class 2-A state team championship 5-2 over Pleasant Valley Saturday at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex. Roosevelt defeated Cedar Rapids Washington 5-1 in a morning semifinal to reach the final.
“We felt like we could do it the day after state last year,” Roosevelt coach Mike Shaw said. “We knew we had it in place and we knew we just had to keep it together and do the work and play our tennis — and the girls did that. There were challenges along the way with so many talented players, and the level of competition they expect out of each other, but they met it.”
Shaw’s club led 4-2 after singles, with the No. 2 doubles team of Alex Kozlowski and Eren Sagun wrapping up the title with a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
Mary Hill, Shivani Kumaresan, Kozlowski, and Sagun all won in singles for the Roughriders. Allison Miller and Emily Nutt won their respective singles matches for Pleasant Valley.
“We’re relieved and jubilant about it,” Shaw said. “We have some seniors on this team, they’ve put in four years, paid their dues, and now finally got to the summit. So it’s great for them.”
The championship is the first in school history for Roosevelt.
Similarly, Pleasant Valley reached the state meet for the first time in school history. The Spartans — who upended City High 5-4 in a highly-contested meet in the first round of state last month — cruised past Urbandale 5-0 in a semifinal early Saturday before falling to the Riders.
Pleasant Valley coach Eric Feldman rallied his team after singles, but they weren’t able to put together a comeback in doubles.
“It’s a nothing-to-lose kind of a spot,” Feldman said. “We’re down 4-2, so we have to go for shots. We know they have a lot of big hitters playing doubles and we can’t lay back otherwise they’re just going to run through us. So we had to go in and try to play them shot for shot, and if we come up with enough shots, great, and if we don’t, we battled our hardest.”
There’s a silver lining for Pleasant Valley, though.
The Spartans return five of their six starters each of the next two years as freshmen and sophomores filled those spots this spring. That includes freshman Lily Feldman, who was runner-up in state singles Friday.
“We knew we had something special starting out,” Eric Feldman said. “We had two good freshmen come in. Our No. 6 girl last year was 18-1 and isn’t playing varsity this year. We knew we had tons of depth. It was just a matter of if we had enough power to get by Roosevelt. We knew about their top four going in and that they were going to be hard to play through.”
The day belonged to Roosevelt. A day they had been thinking about for 12 months.
Shaw’s message prior to Saturday’s action was simple.
“Be you and do your thing,” Shaw said. “Play your tennis, have fun with it. Don’t think too much. Let’s go for it.”
Reach Matt Cozzi at email@example.com or 319-887-5409, and follow him on Twitter at @matt_cozzi.
CLASS 2A STATE TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
Des Moines Roosevelt 5, Pleasant Valley 2
Singles – Mary Hill (R) def. Lily Feldman 6-1, 6-3; Alex Kozlowski (R) def. Katie Melbourne 6-4, 6-1; Eren Sagun (R) def. Hannah Humes 6-0, 6-0; Allison Miller (PV) def. Meera Prasad 2-6, 6-2, 1-0(7); Shivani Kumaresan (R) def. Roshni Penmatcha 6-2, 6-2; Emily Nutt (PV) def. Jenna Pokomy 7-5, 6-1.
Doubles – Melbourne/Miller (PV) vs. Hill/Prasad (R), DNF; Kozowski/Sagun (R) def. Feldman/Permatcha 6-2, 6-3; Humes/Nutt (PV) vs. Kumaresan/Pokomy (R) DNF.