The Ottumwa Courier

Sports

May 24, 2013

New-look Pioneers prepare to continue state tennis traditions

FAIRFIELD – Names change. Expectations do not for the Fairfield Maharishi boys tennis program.

So even in a season that began with the program starting with as big a change as it has gone through in some time, the end result is still the same as it’s always been. The Pioneers, under first-year head coach Steve Briggs, are headed back on a trip that’s become a yearly tradition over the years to compete in the boys state tennis tournaments.

First up is the Class 1A boys state singles and doubles tournament, which gets under way this morning at Byrnes Park in Waterloo. The two-day tourney will see MSAE representation in both brackets with sophomore Sam Stickels in the 16-player singles field while senior Raphael Gelfand joins freshman Chandre Morales in competing for the Pioneers in doubles action.

Following that, the Pioneers entire team again will travel together for a state-record ninth-straight year to compete in the 1A team tennis “final four.” After beating Grinnell and Pella over the weekend on their home court, MSAE has earned a date with Dubuque Walhert at Waveland Courts in Des Moines in the state team semifinals Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

For Briggs, this first time around the state tournament tour is just what he signed up for as head coach of the great Pioneer boys tennis program.

”I’ve been coaching tennis, teaching tennis and playing tennis for 54 years now and I love the competitive thing,” Briggs said. “I think our guys are the underdogs in both the individual and team competitions. I told them last year I like the underdog role. They were the favorites last year and didn’t win, so we have a chance to turn that around this year.”

”People aren’t expecting us to win state in singles, doubles or as a team, but I think we’re in the conversation in all three. I don’t put any pressure on the boys, but I think they understand the role they’re playing as the underdogs going in.”

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