There will be a lot at stake when the Ottumwa boys tennis team takes on CIML Metro Conference opponent Des Moines Roosevelt at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, even if this may not seem like the case.
Though Ottumwa will not send anyone to the Class 2A state championships this season, the boys still have a chance to end its season on positive note because a victory over the Roughriders would provide the Bulldogs with their third consecutive Metro Conference Championship. Bulldog coach Alan Paris said his players don't want to be the ones to break the streak.
"The conference crown is always very important," he said, "they don't want to be the team that loses."
A win for the boys also would keep the Ottumwa tennis programs' -- both boys and girls -- streak alive. Today, the Bulldog tennis team's boast a combined record of 9-0 in the Metro conference. Indianola is the only Metro team that made the boys really sweat -- the Bulldogs edged the Indians 7-4.
The boys' program has been bolstered by upstart freshman Zack Ray, who is undefeated in No. 2 singles action -- his only loss was in a junior varsity match against Fairfield's Govi Punj, who qualified for state in Class 1A this season. Ray, along with his older brother Steve, who is Ottumwa's No. 1 singles player, will play a vital role in how the Bulldogs fare next season.
"Zack is just going to grow and get stronger," Paris said. "Of course, Steve is going to grow and get stronger next year."
Other players who will return include Sam Kramer, Nick Sedore and Mitch Buller.
"We have a good nucleus coming back, especially for singles," Paris said.
Ottumwa, however, will lose the majority of its squad -- 13 out of its 23 players -- to graduation.
"We need to definitely reload next year," the coach said.