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Girls tennis: Bulldog tennis finishes season in regional semifinals

May 15—IOWA CITY — You never know where the journey will take you.

Elli Bishop's journey as an Ottumwa High School girls tennis player came to an end on Tuesday playing on the same courts as the Iowa Hawkeyes. In their final competition of the season, the Bulldogs battled Iowa City West indoors at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center with rain falling outside making the outdoor tennis courts on the home campus of the Trojans unplayable.

The unique experience gave all Bulldog players a chance to finish out the season at the same facility that will hosting both the Class 2A boys and Class 1A girls state singles and doubles tournaments next week. Despite their best efforts, Ottumwa lost five straight matches to the Ladies of Troy ending a winning season with a 5-0 loss to the eventual state team tournament qualifiers in the regional semifinals.

"It was really cool to be playing tennis where Iowa plays," Bishop said. "The girl I played (Sophie Singh) was really good. It was a good match to play against her. It was really tough competition."

Ottumwa, however, was able to take multiple games of Iowa City West in all five matches that finished on Tuesday. Ava Barnes was in the middle of the opening set in the No. 6 singles match for the Bulldogs when the dual was clinched with a 6-1, 6-2 win by Claire Hahn over Emerson Keith in the No. 5 singles match.

"We never once gave up. That's all that I asked of them," Ottumwa head girls tennis coach Leanna White said. "I wanted them to come out and play their hardest. Get games. Get points. Take things one point at a time. We got better because of who we played."

Nellie Morgan set the early tone for the competitive level of the Bulldogs, pushing Anna Vasi in the second set of the second match. Vasi was able to hold on to complete the 6-2, 6-4 win over Morgan, giving Iowa City West a 2-0 lead.

Bishop, Keith and Jordan Lee all took the court next for the Bulldogs seeking to pick up dual-extending wins. After battling through a pair of exciting tiebreakers that helped Ottumwa advance in their postseason-opening win over Burlington on Friday in the debut of Dan Staggs Courts, Lee fell 6-2 and 6-1 to Marie Sher in the No. 3 singles shortly after Bishop's loss to Singh, giving West a 4-0 lead.

"These girls definitely don't play inside as much as the opponents we were playing, but I don't think that should have had a huge impact," White said. "Iowa City West is one of the state's most talented teams. The girls enjoyed the competition and never gave up."

Ottumwa ends the season with a winning record of 7-6, including Friday's 5-2 postseason home win over Burlington with several Ottumwa students and faculty on hand to support the Bulldogs. Bishop and Julia Cordon de Entresotos are the only two seniors that were in the line-up for the postseason duals with Morgan, Lee, Keith and Barnes among many returning players for Ottumwa heading into next season.

"We lost a huge senior class heading into this season, so we had to count on a lot of young players filling in vacancies in our line-up," White said. "We'll definitely miss Elli and Julia next year, but Nellie and Jordan gained a lot of experience both in doubles and singles. Both of their personalities really make our team what it is. Emerson and Ava both really stepped up for us late in the season.

"Things look really promising with a lot of sophomores that had never played and made a lot of strides during this past season. Hunter Caldwell also made tremendous improvement heading into her senior season. Nobody took a step back this year. Everyone took a step forward."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.