OTTUMWA — Don't look now, but Ally Paris and Kiley Heller are becoming a formidable duo.
Not bad for teammates that are in their first season together as doubles partners for the Ottumwa High School girls tennis team.
One night after coming within two points of securing what would have been an impressive win against the top team from ninth-ranked (2A) Waukee, Paris and Heller were back on the court facing another tough team from second-ranked (2A) Dowling Catholic. The Bulldog teammates were the last two players off the court on Tuesday, hanging tough once again with a top tandem falling 6-3 and 6-2, allowing the Maroons to secure an 11-0 Central Iowa Metropolitan League cross-over win.
"They've played really, really well. They've been putting in a lot of things into play that we've been working on in practice," OHS head girls tennis coach Leanna White said of Paris and Heller. "Seeing them put those things to good use, being able to win some impressive games in each of those matches. When you're going up against tough competition, sometimes it's not always about the wins. It's about growing and learning from the experience."
Paris and Heller took the opening set of the top doubles match on Monday against Waukee's Puja Mekala and Morgan Seashore, 6-4, before falling in the second set 6-3. The two teams battled deep into a third-set tiebreaker with the score tied at 10-10 before Mekala and Seashore scored the final two points to complete an 11-0 victory for the Warriors.
"The girls got to work on improving their skills and focusing in mentally," White said. "Sometimes, it can be mentally tough to play opponents whose goal is to keep the ball going. It was a good night for us to work on that skill as players."
Despite consecutive losses, Paris and Heller talked about the confidence gained from playing two teams that have the talent to make it to state. The Ottumwa teammates may have proven this week they have the ability to make run at a state berth in doubles play with three more weeks left before the Class 2A state qualifying meet takes place on May 19.
"We haven't really worked together until this year, so to be able to compete and stay with some of the top players in the state is really nice," Paris said.
"I have no doubt we can keep up with any of these teams," Heller added. "It's just a matter of staying mentally strong throughout the entire match."
Ottumwa (3-3) hosts Des Moines Lincoln in a CIML Metro conference dual on Thursday. The Bulldogs will also honor their senior players as part of the team's final regular-season home dual.
No. 9 (2A) Waukee 11, Ottumwa 0
Ally Roeth (W) def. Ally Paris (O), 6-3, 6-0; Puja Mekala (W) def. Kiley Heller (O), 6-0, 6-0; Morgan Seashore (W) def. Josie Young (O), 6-0, 6-0; CeCe Wright (W) def. Addison Grade (O), 6-3, 6-2; Adrita Mitra (W) def. Josie Vonderhaar (O), 6-2, 6-1; Genera Martens (W) def. Beverly Bishop (O), 6-2, 6-0.
Mekala and Seashore (W) def. Paris and Heller (O), 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10); Roeth and Martens (W) def. Young and Vonderhaar (O), 6-0, 6-2; Wright and Mitra (W) def. Grade and Bishop (O), 6-4, 6-1; Payden Rafferty and Mallory Metzger (W) def. Delanie Handling and Madison Stinson (O), 6-3, 6-1; Zoe Scuffham and Delaney Deering (W) def. Jennifer Davis and Hannah Lisk (O), 6-2, 6-0.
No. 2 (2A) Dowling Catholic 11, Ottumwa 0
Allison Szalay (D) def. Ally Paris (O), 6-0, 6-0; Ava Petersen (D) def. Kiley Heller (O), 6-0, 6-0; Mackenzie Klein (D) def. Josie Young (O), 6-0, 6-0; Isa Valverde (D) def. Addison Grade (O), 6-0, 6-0; Ella Spanovic (D) def. Josie Vonderhaar (O), 6-0, 6-0; Ellie Sackett (D) def. Beverly Bishop (O), 6-3, 6-2.
Petersen and Klein (D) def. Paris and Heller (O), 6-3, 6-2; Szalay and Valverde (D) def. Young and Vonderhaar (O), 6-0, 6-0; Spanovic and Sackett (D) def. Grade and Bishop (O), 6-2, 6-0; Mackenzie Branstad and Lizzie Johnson (D) def. Delanie Handling and Madison Stinson (O), 6-2, 6-2; Kennedy Cox and Presila Edward (D) def. Gissellen Turrado and Hannah Lisk (O), 6-2, 6-0.