Girls tennis: Bulldogs sweep Polar Bears in season opener

Mar. 29—OTTUMWA — It's been tough in recent weeks for the Ottumwa High School girls tennis team to find any spring-like weather to enjoy during the first few weeks of practice this season.

Spring, however, arrived just in time on Thursday for the first meet of the season for the Bulldogs. For at least an hour, anyway.

Fortunately, Ottumwa was able to take care of business quickly against Iowa Alliance Conference south division rival Des Moines North. The Bulldogs dropped just 13 games in eight sets of doubles play against the Polar Bears before winning all six matches in singles play while losing just 12 games, rolling to an 11-0 win at Jon Kneen Courts wrapping up action as cooler temperatures set in during the early evening hours.

"I play my worst when it's cold out," Ottumwa senior Julia Cordon Diaz de Entresotos said. "We've been able to practice inside, but when we've been outside, we try our best. We're only really able to practice our ground strokes when it's windy and cold."

Diaz de Entresotos, a transfer student from Spain, made her Bulldog debut playing in the No. 1 singles match against Biu Atha Abbott earning a 6-2, 6-0 sweep. The new addition to the Ottumwa line-up gives White the ability to put two solid players out on the court to set the tone for her team this season.

"Nellie (Morgan) and I talked at the end of last year about her possibly taking over that No. 1 (singles) position," White said. "That's a big deal because you're playing the best of the best from every school. That can be a really tough position to be in.

"With Julia being here, I think it'll be nice for Nellie to get another year to improve her skills playing at the No. 2 spot."

Morgan showed off those skills in her season debut on Thursday, losing just one game in a 6-1, 6-0 sweep of Hawa Warsame. The Bulldog junior matched her total number of wins in that same No. 2 singles position from last year after going 1-5 as a sophomore after stepping up from playing in the No. 5 and 6 singles matches as a freshman.

"I definitely wasn't very good as a freshman in how to place the ball and how to move my opponent," Morgan said. "Coach White has definitely taught me how to play better and how to feel out my opponents. I've grown each year, so being as high up as I am going into this year on the roster has pushed me to work harder."

Jordan Lee, coming off playing just one varsity singles match last year for the Bulldogs, earned her first varsity singles win on Thursday sweeping Leslie Cisneros 6-1, 6-1 in the No. 3 singles match. Elli Bishop also secured her first varsity singles win, closing out the season-opening sweep for the Bulldogs with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Selena Cruz in the No. 4 singles match.

Jasyln Parsypo and Emerson Keith also secured their first wins in singles play for the Ottumwa varsity squad. Parsypo swept Maja Hudson 6-0 and 6-3 in the No. 5 single match while Keith didn't drop a game sweeping Magaly Patino-Mojo 6-0, 6-0 in the No. 6 singles match.

"The first night out always gives us a perspective or where we're at, things we're doing well and things that we're going to have to continue to work on as we progress throughout the season," White said. "One thing that I really noticed was the hustle during all of the singles' matches. Every single person was going after every single ball. They didn't just let the ball fall because of who our opponents were. The girls were being aggressive and playing our game instead of playing our opponents."

Doubles play saw new teams emerge with wins on opening day. Keith and Lee stepped up to the top of the order for the Bulldogs, sweeping Abbott and Warsame 6-2 and 6-1 while Bishop and Parsypo won by the same 6-2, 6-1 score in the No. 2 doubles match over Cisneros and Cruz.

Ava Barnes and Hunter Caldwell picked up Ottumwa's first win in any varsity match this season, sweeping Hudson and Natalia Guerra-Cerron 6-2 and 6-3 in the No. 3 doubles match. Ashlyn Hough and Naw Clay also won their Ottumwa varsity tennis debut, sweeping the No. 4 doubles match over Patino-Mojo and Nai Paw 6-4 and 6-1.

"Jaslyn and Emerson are kind of our newcomers in the singles play. I thought they both played well in singles and came together well in doubles with partners that they've never played with before," White said. "I put everything leading up to state on our calendars ever year before the season starts. I always tell the girls to block off all of those dates because you absolutely never know what you can achieve during the course of a season. Just because you start out at a certain point doesn't mean that we can't end up on top."

Ottumwa (1-0, 1-0 Iowa Alliance) will be back home on Tuesday to host Des Moines Lincoln. Action at Jon Kneen Courts gets underway at 3 p.m.

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