Marshalltown spoils home opener for Ottumwa boys tennis team

Ottumwa High School freshman Moses Merrill returns a shot during boys tennis action on Tuesday afternoon against Marshalltown at Dan Staggs Courts in Ottumwa

FAIRFIELD — After being rained out midway through the first dual of the season, the Ottumwa boys tennis team was able to make it to the finish line on Monday at Fairfield.

The Bulldogs earned an 8-1 win over the Trojans, winning four of five tiebreakers at the Fairfield Middle School tennis courts. Marshalltown, however, spoiled Ottumwa first home dual of the year sweeping the young Bulldogs 11-0 on Tuesday.

"Tuesday was a tough night. Marshalltown outhit us in serving, returning and volleying," Ottumwa head boys tennis coach Mark Hanson said.

Toby Schmidt secured her first win in the top singles match for Ottumwa on Monday, shutting out Blake Holden 7-0 in a second-set tiebreaker to clinch a 6-2, 7-6 sweep.

Matt Nderi secured Ottumwa's second tiebreaker win in singles play, winning 10-5 in the decisive third set against Jeremy Goodale in the No. 2 singles match after the two players traded 6-4 sets. Brecken Courtright picked up Fairfield's lone win against the Bulldogs, winning 10-8 in a thrilling third-set tiebreaker after shaking off a 7-6 loss in the opening set against Trey Hull, rallying with a 6-4 win in the second set in the No. 3 singles match.

Clayton Ferguson (No. 4), Lucas Barnes (No. 5) and Zarren Kirubakaran (No. 6) scored sweeps in singles play for Ottumwa. Ferguson won 6-1 and 6-3 over Garrett Flanagan, Barnes won 6-4 and 6-1 over Jace Hammes and Kirubakaran won 6-0 and 6-2 over Tristan Paton.

Ottumwa swept through doubles play including a 6-0, 6-3 win by Nderi and Barnes over Courtright and Paton as well as a 6-0, 7-5 win for Ferguson and Kirubakaran over Hammes and Flanagan. Schmidt and Cale Leonard, making their debut together as the top doubles team for the Bulldogs, won a 10-8 third-set tiebreaker over Holden and Goodale bouncing back from a 6-4 second-set loss after opening the match winning 6-3 in the first set.

"It was an excellent team effort," Hanson said of Monday's win at Fairfield. "Matt Nderi's comeback was outstanding and all the doubles teams really competed. I was proud of our effort."

Kevin Strand handed Schmidt his first varsity loss on Tuesday. The Marshalltown junior secured a 6-1, 6-1 sweep of the Ottumwa freshman, scoring his state-leading sixth win in No. 1 singles matches.

Nic Price added a 6-1, 6-2 sweep over Nderi in the No. 2 singles match while Ethan Benscoter won 6-1, 6-2 over Hull in the No. 3 singles match. Drake Davis dropped just one game in a 6-1, 6-0 sweep of Ferguson in the No. 4 singles match before Barnes and Kirubakaran fought to secure the only two sets Ottumwa would win in singles play.

Barnes responded after losing a first-set tiebreaker against Nile Christensen, forcing a third-set tiebreaker with a 6-4 win in the second set. Christensen, however, would edge Barnes 10-5 in the decisive tiebreaker to secure a win in the No. 5 singles match for the Bobcats.

Kirubakaran came as close as any Ottumwa player to winning a match against Marshalltown. After winning a dominant 6-1 opening set, Kirubakaran was forced into a tiebreaker after dropping a 7-5 second set to John Loney before falling in the tiebreaker 10-8 in a thrilling No. 6 singles match.

"Those were the bright spots for us," Hanson said of Tuesday's dual. "In doubles, Schmidt and Leonard led 5-4, 30-love in the first set and 3-1 in the second set, but could not finish either set."

Instead, Strand and Christensen rallied for a 7-5, 6-3 sweep as the Bobcats didn't drop a set in doubles play. Price and Benscoter won 6-1, 6-0 over Nderi and Barnes. Davis and Loney won 6-3, 6-2 over Ferguson and Kirubakaran. Justin Melde and Colin Schmit won 6-2, 6-1 over Hull and Jarrett Wellings. Austin Christen and Drake Stalzer closed out the shutout win for the Bobcats winning 6-0, 6-2 over Quintin Hull and Cason Palm in the No. 5 doubles match.

The Bulldogs (1-1) visit Urbandale next Monday.

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