Girls tennis: On to state

May 13—FAIRFIELD — Ishita Mukadam ran through a gamut of emotions last Monday at the Class 1A regional tennis tournament.

Ditto for Abby Warning and Culee Smith, but for slightly different reasons. The Davis County teammates dealt with nerves, intensity and ultimately humor throughout the day after being awarded the top seed in the regional doubles tournament.

"When you see your name at the top of the bracket, it's going to make you a little bit nervous," Warning said. "You want to go out there and prove you deserved to be ranked No. 1."

Warning and Smith played like the best doubles team in the region, sweeping through six straight sets of the tournament including three sets without dropping a game on the way to clinching a spot in the Class 1A girls state tennis tournament. The Davis County duo closed out regionals by holding off Fairfield Maharishi teammates Ria Altynska-Ross and Aparajita Kalra in a three-set championship battle winning 7-5, 2-6 and 6-3 earning the Mustangs at earning a top-four seed in next week's state doubles tournament.

"We had a really good start. We came out pretty fiery, which was pretty fun. I think that helped us make this run to the title," Smith said. "I think seeing that we were named the region's top seed boosted our confidence.

"We tried to stay positive and not be too serious," Warning added. "We tried to have some fun out there. That allowed us to play well enough to keep our energy up throughout the tournament."

By playing like a top-seeded team, Warning and Smith won a pair of 6-3 sets over Isabella Callison and Carli Cline of Burlington-Notre Dame before sweeping Mount Pleasant teammates Bethany Drury and Audrey Richmond in the quarterfinals 6-0 and 6-0. Two familiar faces made their way into the match with the Davis County teammates as Centerville's Kiera Klum and Olexa Williams won 6-1, 6-1 over Keokuk's Annabel Benson and Gracie Thompson before holding off MSAE's Daira Valls and Joyce Wang 6-2 and 6-4, moving within one win of earning a state tournament berth.

"This is the first year I've been this close to making it to the state tournament in four years of high school tennis," Williams said. "I would not have expected to be this close to making it when the day began."

Williams and Klum got out to a quick lead against Warning and Smith in the battle to represent the South Central Conference in the state tennis tournament, winning the first three games of the semifinal showdown. The top-seeded Mustangs rebounded quickly, winning 12 consecutive games to clinch the state berth with a 6-3, 6-0 win.

"It helped us a little bit that we played (Williams and Klum) earlier in the season," Smith said. "We kind of knew what to expect more so than we would have against a team we hadn't faced before.

"We had to lock in after those first three games," Warning added. "We were pretty tense early in the match. We just had to focus and hit our shots."

Altyska-Ross and Karla, meanwhile, clinched the second ticket to the state doubles tournament. The teammates from Maharishi ultimately took on a pair of challenges from Davis County, overcoming a tough opening set in the quarterfinals against Alistyn Lawson and Alyssa Rudd winning 7-5 and 6-1 before facing off with Emma Wendland and Sriya Yammanur of Fairfield for a trip to state in the regional semifinals.

After sweeping through the opening set, Altyska-Ross and Karla ran into resistance from the Trojan teammates as Wendland and Yammanur jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set. The Pioneer teammates responded by winning the final six games to avoid a decisive third set as the doubles newcomers are headed to state in their first season together.

"There were times we played really well, then there were times where we made some silly mistakes," Karla said. "We were trying to maintain our intensity throughout each match to avoid making those mistakes. We started talking to each other in that second set. Even if we had to fake smiling, it seemed like those smiles helped improve our mood."

Mukadam, meanwhile, is headed back to the 1A girls state singles tournament for the second straight year after earning a medal last spring finishing seventh with three wins in five matches over the course of two days. Mukadam won 24 of 25 games played in the first two rounds of the regional tournament before outlasting Davenport Assumption senior Addison Walter 6-4 and 6-3 in the semifinals to secure the state singles return.

"I thought that was an unnecessarily difficult match for me," Mukadam said with a smile. "Addison really pulled through to challenge me. Going to state is an opportunity I'm grateful for. I'm going to give it my best shot. Everyone's support throughout the season has really helped."

Mukadam would provide some of that support to her younger sister shortly after falling in the 1A regional finals to Mount Pleasant senior Jana Isanta, 6-1 and 6-1. Battling illness that included a 100-plus degree fever, Poojita Mukadam nearly made an inspiring run to join her sister in the state singles tournament advancing all the way to the regional semifinals with sweeps against Assumption senior Elie Farley (6-1, 6-0) and Fairfield freshman Mareyn Dunkin (6-2, 6-1) before falling to Isanta 6-1 and 6-1.

The younger Mukadam was not finished, however, playing for third place against Walter. In her fourth match of the day, with fatigue truly setting in, Poojita Mukadam refused to quit ultimately finishing a 4-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10-4) loss to Walter.

"She had a fever. She had a cough. She had a cold. She sounded so sick throughout the weekend," Ishita Mukadam said of Poojita. "She got up in the morning and said she was going to give it a shot. She did her best. She played as well as she ever had throughout the first two rounds. She needed Tylenol, bananas and even needed her legs massaged just to make it through those last two matches.

"She never once considered forfeiting that final match," MSAE head girls tennis coach Lawrence Eyre added. "No matter how bad Poojita was feeling, you just see that quitting wasn't happening. She was going to finish the match and finish her day now matter what."

Before heading off to Iowa City next week to compete in the 1A state singles and doubles tournament, Maharishi (8-0) will head to Camanche on Tuesday for the regional team tennis tournament finals. Both Ishita and Poojita Mukadam swepts through a pair of wins on Friday in singles play leading the Pioneers to a 5-0 win over Fort Madison and a 5-2 win over Fairfield.

"Fairfield came to play. Their intensity showed from the start," Eyre said. "Coach Phil Wendland has done an excellent job bringing his young team along this season. With no graduating seniors, Fairfield will return a potent lineup in 2025."

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