Under cloudy skies at Byrnes Park in Waterloo, the Pioneers' defending state singles champ, Sam Stickels, lost in the final to Sam Jones of Clear Lake by a score of 6-3, 6-4. "Sticks needed to be firing on all cylinders in the final, but he struggled a bit with his forehand today," said PIoneer coach, Steve Briggs. "Sam was disappointed, but we're all really proud of him. Several parents of players Sam played this year and last wanted me to know how much they appreciated Sam's good sportsmanship.'
"Obviously everyone expected Sam to repeat, but that's not so easy," explained Briggs. "This past year Sam practiced less so that he could pursue other areas of interest like theatre and music. Still, he was right there at the end. Sam's headed to Grinnell College in the Fall. He's ready for a new challenge and college tennis will provide that for him."
The Pioneers' doubles duo, Chandre Morales and Kai Vessey, won 4 of their 5 matches, finishing a strong 5th place. "Chandre and Kai lost a tight one to Decorah in the quarter-finals, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 after pulling ahead 2-0 in the final set. The boys played great all weekend," said Briggs. "In our last two matches we won 3rd set tiebreakers by the closest margins (11-9 & 10-8). You roll the dice in overtime. Chandre and Kai came up some superb shots to secure the wins. If the 2016 state doubles draw were made today, Chandre and Kai would be the top seed. All the other teams graduate one or both of their players."
Chandre and Kai wore broad smiles as the 5th place medals were hung around their necks. "Kai finished higher than any other freshman at state. In fact, he was just one of three freshman to even qualify. The future's bright for Kai. He knows that if he continues to develop his game he could be holding the trophy one day."
According to Briggs, "If we scored the state tournament the way district is scored -- 2 points for singles matches won and 3 for doubles matches won -- the Pioneers would have finished first. But that was just my way of getting a handle on our performance. The team title will be decided in Des Moines on Tuesday."
Teams competing for the state team finals are: Decorah, Denison-Schelsweg, LeMars, and Maharishi School.