Prep tennis: Mustangs net experience in Pella, SCC tournaments

May 2—PELLA — Next stop, Fairfield.

The Davis County girls tennis team will be back to Jefferson County in hopes of chasing down elusive state tickets on Monday in the Class 1A, Region 8 singles and doubles tournament. It won't be easy as the Mustangs will one of nine schools competing in the region, including unbeaten Fairfield Maharishi and reigning 1A state powerhouse Davenport Assumption.

The Mustangs, however, have been getting prepared to face tough competition this week. It started this past weekend at the Pella Invitational, where Davis County competed in a tournament that included 1A state contenders Waterloo Columbus, Pella and was ultimately won by Class 2A state hopeful Dowling Catholic.

Abby Warning and Culee Smith battled for a win in doubles play, going to a decisive third-set tiebreaker to edge Marion teammates Kasia Hahn and Jenna Heinricy. After winning all four games in the opening set, Warning and Smith bounced back from a 4-1 loss in the second set winning the tiebreaker 7-3 to advance to the consolation quarterfinals.

Even in a closing loss to Pella teammates Bryn Higginbotham and Claire Smock, Davis County's top tandem showed grit. Warning and Smith forced a second-set tiebreaker after losing the first seven games of the match before ultimately falling short of forcing a second straight third-set tiebreaker as Higginbotham and Smock scored the final five points of the match to clinch the 4-0, 4-3 (7-2) win.

"That's the type of fight you want to see at this time of the season," Davis County head girls tennis coach Brian Skaggs said. "These are some of the best teams you can face. It's good preparation for regionals."

Warning and Smith found more success on Tuesday at the South Central Conference girls tennis tournament, finishing fourth overall coming with three points of playing for the doubles championship. After a 6-0, 6-1 win over Chariton teammates Lucy Stratton and Mallory Willis, Warning and Smith battled into a pair of matches that were decided on third-set super-tiebreakers as Maisy McCoy and Marissa Bakley edged the Davis County duo 6-3, 3-6 and 1-0 with a 10-7 tiebreaker win in the conference semifinals.

Knoxville teammates Kate Schneider and Mackenzie Karr edged Warning and Smith for third place in the conference, winning 2-4, 4-2 and 1-0 with a 7-5 tiebreaker win deciding the match. Skaggs is hopeful the tough matches will sharpen the skills of the Mustang teammates going into Monday's regional tournament.

"For both Abby and Culee, they're in new positions moving up to the top of our line-up," Skaggs said. "They've had to face solid competition all year. They know they're going to have to step up their level of play if they want to achieve some of their goals."

The Davis County girls finished third in the SCC tournament on Tuesday, bringing in 11 points matching eventual conference champion Clarke and runner-up Knoxville with six first-round points in doubles play thanks to a pair of wins. Besides Warning and Smith, Alyssa Rudd and Alistyn Lawson produced a winning day for Davis County finishing sixth in the tournament battling into four tiebreakers including two matches decided on third-set breakers.

"Abby and Culee have embraced their roles this season. It's been their time to lead the team," Skaggs said. "They've been good examples for our younger players to follow."

Joining Davis County in the regional tournament on Monday in Fairfield will be SCC rival Centerville. The Redettes finished fourth in the SCC tournament, scoring seven points with five being scored by Veronica Hayes who advanced to the semifinals in the singles bracket winning a third-set tiebreaker over Clarke sophomore Emily Glenn 10-2 before finishing fourth overall in the tournament.

The Albia girls finished fifth overall in the SCC tournament with four points, all scored in singles play. Megan Teno and Ryleigh Birchmier battled all the way to the fifth-place match for the Lady Dees before Teno edged Birchmier, winning a 5-1 tiebreaker in the opening set before closing out the win taking the second set 4-2.

The Albia boys nearly brought home the SCC team title one day earlier in Knoxville, finishing second overall with 15 points just one win shy of dethroning reigning champion Chariton who defended their title with 16 points on Monday. The Blue Demons were led to the strong conference tournament showing by the freshman doubles team of Isaac Helm and Tavian LaRue, who battled through a pair of marathon tiebreakers on the way to a second-place finish that included a 17-15 super-tiebreaker semifinal win over Davis County teammates Cayler Wuthrich and Gavin Klaus before falling in a 12-10 super-tiebreaker against Clarke teammates J.D. Sitzman and Nathaniel Rowe.

Helm and LaRue opened the championship match stunning Sitzman and Rowe, 6-3 to move within one set of a conference title. The Clarke teammates, however, responded with a 6-1 win in the second set to force a decisive championship tiebreaker.

Helm and LaRue opened the championship tiebreaker by scoring of four of the first four points in the race to 10. Sitzman and Rowe, however, erased two late match points before clinching a thrilling 12-10 win on an ace serve clinching Clarke's second straight SCC doubles title.

The Davis County boys finished fifth overall in the SCC tournament with 10 points, paced by a run to the doubles semifinals by Wuthrich and Klaus. Centerville finished sixth with nine points with a run to the conference singles' title match by Ayden Beeson leading the charge for the Big Reds.

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