By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — It's not often players get to walk off the court following a win at this time of the year.
In fact, if you're a high school tennis player in the state of Iowa, only those competing a the state singles, doubles or team tournament levels get that honor.
Unless, of course, Mother Nature turns your schedule upside down and around more times than a normal spring sports calander can allow. In which case, you get the opportunity afforded to the Ottumwa boys tennis team on Friday at Dan Staggs Courts where the tennis season could have ended last Friday had rain not forced the Class 2A singles and doubles substate tournament to be moved at the last second to Iowa City.
One week later, several Bulldog seniors enjoyed a much more successful final day together on the home court. With their postseason future having already been closed out, OHS enjoyed one final day in the sun and brought home an outright CIML Metro Conference title with a 9-2 dual win over Des Moines Roosevelt.
Fittingly, the dual also doubled as "Senior Day" for OHS boys tennis. Nine seniors played a part in the conference clincher with three of those departing Bulldogs, Jared Bohlmann, Seth White and Jacob Gardner, all scoring singles wins that helped Ottumwa lock up the Metro crown well before six seniors paired up for three final doubles matches.
"It's always the best day and the worst day at the same time," Gardner said after polishing off a 6-1, 6-1 No. 6 singles sweep to close out his Bulldog boys tennis career. "It's always great to go out with a bang, but it's so hard to leave it. You always want another one."
"You play with the same group of guys for four years, you get so used to being together. It's tough to know this was the last day," Bohlmann added after his 6-1, 6-2 win in the No. 3 singles match over Will Anderson. "It's just nice getting out there and getting a nice victory with your teammates."
Roosevelt didn't provide much in the way of resistance to a successful final day for Ottumwa. The depleated Roughriders, who had to postpone the make-up trip Wednesday because of a lack of transportation to the City of Bridges, used a makeshift roster of junior varsity and varsity players, which led to Roosevelt having to forfeit the No. 4 and No. 5 doubles matches immedately.
OHS didn't need the forfeitures. White swept Roosevelt's Micheal Jackson 6-0, 6-0 to get the Bulldogs on the board in just over 30 minutes. Gardner and Bohlman along with freshman Zach Ray followed before the hour was up, and when Sam Kramer finished off a 6-0, 6-3 win in the No. 4 singles over Islam Muhammed, the dual and the third-straight Metro team title belonged to the Bulldogs.
"It's great to win three titles in a row. The guys have always been upbeat and positive no matter what the circumstances and no matter what the weather conditions were like," Ottumwa head boys tennis coach Alan Paris said after receiving a water bath from his seniors for the first time as a head coach following the win. "They gave me a bath for winning the conference title for the first time. That shows the enthusasium they brought with them to the court each day out here. They were a fun team to coach."
Fittingly, the Bulldogs finished off the night by showcasing more of their senior depth that has been a trademark of this season. Alec Maas, Joe Wetrich, Brandon Lein, Michael Phippen, Isaac Goodman and Alex Hardie all closed out their Ottumwa boys tennis careers as well as part of the conference championship-clinching win as the Bulldogs celebrated a class of 13 seniors that made up the 2013 boys tennis team.
"It feels like half the team was here for four years," White said. "It's incredible to think we're saying goodbye to that many guys."
"I thought it was great to let those seniors close out the season that way. They deserved it for all the hard work they've put in this year," Paris added.
Three of their top-six singles players, including the Ray brothers that also make up the top doubles duo, return next year for Ottumwa. Still, being able to recapture being a part of a group of so many players that came up together as part of a team is definately something that will be unmatched going forward for the Bulldog boys tennis program.
"When you lose 13 seniors, that's obviously a huge part of your team," Paris said. "We'll have 10 returning players back next year. They've done a good job listening to those seniors and focusing on what it takes to be successful and keep buidling the program up to where we need to be at each and every season."
"I think we can all say it's one of the best decisions we've ever made to be a part of this team. All the memories we've made coming up together. It's definately something we'll always remember," Bohlmann added.