Girls tennis: Ottumwa advances in regionals on new home courts

May 10—OTTUMWA — Who else but Jordan Lee?

The first tiebreaker played at Dan Staggs Family Courts had to involve the Ottumwa player who has earned her nickname from Bulldog head girls tennis coach Leanna White for having a flair for the dramatics.

"Jordan the 'Queen of the Tiebreakers,'" White said of Lee, who lived up to that title on Friday playing in not one but three different tiebreakers over two matches during a Class 2A regional first-round match against Burlington. "She's played in plenty at home. She's played in several more on the road."

Of the three tiebreakers Lee played in, she finished dead even both in terms of points and records. After losing a 9-7 second-set tiebreaker to Annalee Buxton in the No. 3 singles match, the Ottumwa junior came back to win an even more dramatic super-tiebreaker that decided the match scoring four of the final five points to clinch an 11-9 win in what proved to be perhaps the most pivotal result of the day.

As for the third tiebreaker involving Lee? We'll never now. Thanks to her dramatic singles win, Ottumwa was able to put away a 5-2 victory over the Grayhounds with a 6-2, 6-4 win by Julia Cordon Diaz de Entresotos and Emerson Keith in the No. 2 doubles match ending the dual just as Lee and Nellie Morgan had split the first two points of a decisive third-set super-tiebreaker with Emily Mosley and Buxton in the top doubles match.

"We've been working really hard on getting the duece points and the points that really decide a game and a match," White said. "We finally ended up winning more duece points than we lost. We've finally gotten to that point in the season where we're finishing the important points. That's huge for us going into Tuesday."

For Ottumwa, Tuesday will bring a return trip to Iowa City West for the Class 2A regional semifinals to face the Trojans just eight days after falling in four matches during regional singles and doubles play last Monday. Should Ottumwa (7-5) win, the Bulldogs would stick around to face either Iowa City High or Waterloo West for the regional title and a spot in the state team tennis quarterfinals.

"You can't think about the name on the shirt or the opponent you're playing. You never know what type of opponent is going to show up that day," White said. "Iowa City West could show up and be something completely different than what we saw on Monday."

Emerson Keith, coming off a 6-4, 6-1 loss to Iowa City High senior Eviann Smith in her 2A regional singles tournament debut on Monday, bounced back to help secure one of two big wins for the Bulldogs to answer a win by Mosley in the top singles match against Cordon Diaz de Entresotos. After a 6-2, 6-0 win by Barnes over Ava Moffett in the No. 6 singles match leveled the dual at 1-1, Keith put Ottumwa ahead for good winning 6-3 and 6-2 over Loreli Weaver in the No. 5 singles match earning the second official win at new home tennis courts of the Bulldog boys and girls tennis programs.

"I just started playing singles this year. I was pretty nervous in the beginning when Leanna told me I'd be playing singles in regionals," Keith said. "I feel like playing singles has helped me out a lot mentally. You realize when you're out there that it's all on you. I feel like I struggled with deep shots at the beginning of the season, but I've figured out a way to keep those shots in and force the other player into mistakes."

"Ava and Emerson both really stepped up for us. That was some of the best tennis I've seen them play this season," White added. "Burlington's coach even commented on Ava's movement and her consistent ability to keep the ball in play. She hasn't played in that spot all season."

Ava Fawcett was able to tie the dual at 2-2, scoring a pair of 6-2 set wins over Elli Bishop in the No. 4 singles match. Morgan put Ottumwa back on top, 3-2, by finishing off a 6-0, 6-4 win over Madison Taeger in the No. 2 single match.

That left the stage to Lee and Buxton to finish the No. 3 singles match with a result that would prove to be pivotal as Burlington looked to even the score heading into the three doubles matches, putting both teams on equal footing needing two more wins to advance. Lee took the opening set, 6-3, and had a 6-5 lead in the second set before Buxton broke Lee's serve to force a tiebreaker.

Leading late in the tiebreaker, Lee could not put Buxton away losing a match-point opportunity before Buxton scoring the final two points of the set to even the match. Buxton took the lead early in the decisive third-set breaker and held an 8-7 lead as Lee took over the serve.

The match, and potentially the dual, was suddenly on the line. Lee then struck two clutch ace serves to change the momentum of the match, reaching match point for the second time.

"I had the strategies and the ideas on how I wanted to attack, but at the end of the day it all comes down to how well I can hit the ball," Lee said. "Those aces really boosted my confidence. I think it also rattled (Buxton). She was starting to get in her head a little bit. Once I noticed that, I started to pick at it."

Buxton was able to extend the match by winning the 18th point of the tiebreaker off her serve. After getting a break on a long hit by Buxton at 9-9, Lee won a thrilling rally as both players returned six consecutive shots at the net with Lee finally getting her third match point opportunity down past Buxton to clinch the 6-3, 6-7 (7), 1-0 (9) win nearly two hours after the match began.

"It's all mindset," Lee said. "It was tight all the way until the end. It's all about instinct, survival and the will to put the match away. It's cooperative until it isn't in those last few points. When it comes down to winning those points, you just have to step up and show them who's boss."

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