Ottumwa girls tennis team competes in Top Gun Tournament

The Ottumwa girls tennis team returned home from the Top Gun Tennis Tournament in Waterloo before traveling on Monday to Burlington for the first dual meet of the season.

WATERLOO — The Ottumwa Bulldog girls' tennis team traveled to Waterloo Saturday to compete in the 2015 Top Gun Tournament, hosted by Columbus Catholic High School. The Bulldogs improved upon the results from their first meet, winning several more games and placing higher than in the first meet.

Two singles players for Ottumwa placed individually. Kaelen Whitlow placed third in No. 4 singles, defeating Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Renee Mittenberg in a tough match that went to 7-6 for the win.

Rachel Zingg also placed third for Ottumwa, in No. 3 singles, defeating Kennedy's Gabby Olejniczah in a battle which ended 8-5.

Bulldog coach Leanna Nelson was impressed with the effort put in by her singles' players. 

"Flo has improved her ground strokes and consistency," she said. "She even received a compliment about her groundstrokes from a watching fan."

"Rachel has improved her consistency and aggressiveness on approaching the net," Nelson added.

In doubles, the No. 1 doubles team of Caroline Carlson and Roxana Zeledon finished in third place for OHS. Carlson and Zeledon defeated Decorah's Kally Peterson and Kelsey Kruse in a 7-6 nailbiter. 

Coach Nelson liked what she saw from her duo. 

"They have improved on their confidence and aggressiveness at the net," she said. "Caroline's serve also served as a threat throughout the match."

At the end of the day, Nelson was very impressed with how her team's game has changed over the course of just a few days. 

"The girls looked much more confident on the courts this weekend. We were more consistent and aggressive at the net," she said. "The girls even showed improvement throughout the day."

"Leslie Saunders did a great job of stepping into Andrea Kurtz in the No. 5 singles spot and played doubles with Kaelen for the afternoon. I'm proud of the improvements the girls have shown already in a week's time. It makes me excited to see what they can do for the rest of the season."

Kurtz made a triumphant comeback on Monday. After having to miss the Top Gun Tournament over the weekend in Waterloo due to illness, Kurtz helped pick up both of Ottumwa's two wins at Burlington in the first dual of the season for the Bulldog girls.

Kurtz rallied after losing a close first set against Brianna Whittkamp in the No. 5 singles match, forcing a tiebreaker with a 7-5 win in the second set after losing the opener 6-4. Kurtz pulled out the only singles win of the night for OHS, winning 11-9 in the decisive set before joining Whitlow to win the No. 3 doubles in a tight battle with Emily Blommer and Madison Osbourne 7-5 and 7-6 (2).

"She did a great job coming out on top when she was under pressure," Nelson said of Kurtz. "She did a great job bouncing back after falling ill on Saturday. I'm really proud of her coming back out and play as well as she did."

Though Burlington would take the dual, 7-2, over the Bulldogs, Nelson saw a lot of growth and a lot of fight from her team on Monday.

"Even though our scores don't seem to register it, we took a lot of games down to the wire. It was just the matter of a few points going here or there that could have turned around some of those matches."

"I'm proud of the progress we've made so far. Even with the limited amount of practice that we've had so far, the girls have put up a great effort."

Ottumwa be back home on Thursday for their second straight CIML Metro Conference dual. The Bulldogs face Des Moines Hoover in the CIML Metro Conference opener at 4 p.m.

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