Friday, May 15, began foggy and damp, but as the clouds cleared the Pioneer boys strung together a series of hard-fought matches to capture their 11th straight district title. As the medals were being handed out at the Punj Courts under threatening skies, the rains came, the players scrambled to their buses, and the Pioneers tasted yet again the sweetness of victory.
"Everyone contributed," explained Coach Briggs. "We finished with 24 points, and every guy earned at least 3."
But it was senior David Wadsworth who brought a smile to his coach's lips. "It's fair to say that Wadsy's had an up and down season. First an arm injury followed by a couple academic issues. Today Wadsy performed the way we knew he could, finishing 4th in singles and earning 4 key points for the team while battling leg cramps and dehydration much of the day."
"Wadsy is our Pioneer Player of the Match, and his teammates rewarded him with a bottle of pickle juice," laughed Briggs. "You see, pickle brine is supposed to replenish salts, and Wadsy was cramping so badly by the end of the day that he couldn't stand up."
In singles, Sam Stickels earned his 3rd district crown (2 singles and 1 doubles), easing past Knoxville's Jared McClung 6-0, 6-1. Stickels lost just 4 games in the tournament while at least 3 players in the singles draw were stricken with leg cramps, including Wadsworth.
In doubles, 2nd seeded Chandre Morales and Kai Vessey took on Pella's two highly rated teams. Morales and Vessey overcame a gutsy comeback from Sam Dykstra and Colin Jones, reaching the finals with a 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 victory over last year's 7th place state finishers.
In the championship match, Pella's senior duo of Jamison Roozeboom and Tom Pettit proved to be too experienced for the Pioneers, winning by a score of 6-2, 7-5.
"It won't surprise me if Jamison and Tom get the #1 seed at state. They've had a great season. It's no disgrace losing to those guys. We've got two weeks to make some adjustments which might do the trick against those guys," declared Briggs. "We had them on the ropes in the 2nd set."
In addition to the 9 points Morales and Vessey earned, Pioneer teammates Caleb Mullenneaux and Daniel Zhu came from behind to defeat Albia. "I relished every point we earned today," enthused Briggs. "Until you've been through a few districts you can't fully appreciate what it takes to win the event."
"I'm looking forward to buying David Wadsworth dinner. But Wadsy probably won't be ordering pickles," joked Briggs.