By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
---- — 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.
Meanwhile, the Ottumwa girls tennis team will compete in singles and doubles action at the Class 2A districts Thursday at Cedar Rapids Washington.
Coach Emily Phommachack said Kelsey Granneman, Jennifer Klodt, Beth Overturf, Katie Zingg and Jill Ardueser will represent the Bulldogs at districts.
"We talked about how we're really going to focus and strategize and work with the girls and hopefully we will see something special at districts," Phommachack said.
The Bulldogs are a perfect 5-0 in conference -- Des Moines Roosevelt is the only team they haven't played -- and 7-2 overall.
"It's been a great season," she said. "The girls have shown a lot of improvement. They've had great attitudes, especially with the weather."
The Bulldogs were completely dominant in the majority of their conference wins: They blanked Des Moines East (11-0), Des Moines North (11-0) and Des Moines East (9-0). Des Moines Lincoln gave Ottumwa it's biggest scare, but the Bulldogs still managed to win 7-4.
"It didn't seem like there was a whole lot of competition this year," Phommachack said.
The girls chance to qualify for state as a team came to an end when they fell to a talented Cedar Rapids Kennedy squad 5-2 in the Class 2A regional semi-finals on the road Saturday. In regional competition, the first team to win five matches wins.
Ottumwa trailed 4-2 after singles play and Kennedy secured the victory when the Cougars' team of Jessica Pedersen and Sarah Lasecki knocked off Granneman and Klodt 6-1, 0-6 in No. 1 doubles action. The other two doubles matches that day didn't get finished because the Cougars had already won the dual.
"We ended up not being to able to finish out our doubles," Phommachack said, "however, I thought all the girls had great communication, played aggressive and did a nice job of keeping the ball away from the net player."
Ardueser and Zingg recorded Ottumwa's two victories in the dual. Ardueser scored a hard-fought 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 victory over Kennedy's Hanna Kvivt in No. 5 singles action and Zingg grinded out a 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 10-8 win over Lindsey Rutz in No. 6 singles play.
"Ardueser never let up lets up and she certainly does not back down," Phommachack said. "She played exceptionally well and aggressive. "Katie [Zingg] pushed through her match today. She stayed mentally tough and made her opponent work."
Overall, Phommachack was pleased with her team's performance.
"They were strong in both the physical and and mental part of the tennis game," the coach said.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy 5, Ottumwa 2
No. 1 — Jessica Pedersen (K) def. Kelsey Granneman 0-6, 1-6; No. 2 — Sarah Lasecki (K) def. Jennifer Klodt 2-6, 0-6; No. 3 —Anna Riester (K) def. Hayli Beeson 2-6, 2-6; No. 4 — Marisa DonDiego (K) def. Sydney Grooms 7-5, 1-6, 10-3; No. 5 — Jill Ardueser (O) def. Hanna Kvivit 7-6 (7-5), 6-4; No. 6 — Katie Zingg (O) def. Lindsey Rutz 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 10-8.
No. 1 — Pedersen/Lasecki (K) def. Granneman/Klodt 6-1, 6-0.