School News

Maharishi School Poised For Another Final Four Run

From Fairfield Ledger --  Michael Leach--  Photo Carson Tigges / Ledger Archive --Mar 23, 2012 

Only so many constants exist in sports, and over the past 25 years Maharishi School has staked its claim to one of them.

As surely as the Chicago Cubs won’t win the World Series and the Duke Blue Devils will earn a trip to the NCAA hoops tournament, the Pioneer boys’ tennis team will be swinging its rackets deep into the month of May. No doubt about it, the smallest school in Iowa to have a tennis program has also become one of the state’s most feared.

Now entering their 25th year as a program ­­— all under head coach Lawrence Eyre — the Pioneers have won four state titles, finished runner-up seven times and hold an all-time record for state appearances, with 14. The program’s overall dual record stands at 231-64, and the 2012 team figures to provide another chunk of wins.

Gone from last year’s state runner-up squad are graduates Derek Thatcher, who played No. 3 singles, and No. 6 player Brenton Schwartz. But the Pioneers welcome back the Nos. 1 and 2 as well as two other returning varsity players.

Although the race is still wide open to make the varsity roster, Eyre said, don’t expect much change at the top.

Seniors Sam Arsanjani and Thomas Weiss return as the top two from last year and should be back atop the lineup once again. Arsanjani has made great strides over the past two years and is the returning district champ, while Weiss has been an important part of the varsity squad since bursting onto the scene four years ago as a freshman.

“They’re certainly expected to be our leaders, and based on last year they should be the top players again,” said Eyre.

MSAE senior Raphael Gelfand joins the other two seniors and may just be the state’s best No. 3 after finishing runner-up at districts last year. Solaris Nite, a sophomore, is expected to round out the top four after grabbing the No. 5 spot in his first year.

Freshman Sam Stickels should make a major impact in his rookie year and is a good bet for the No. 5 spot. Stickels won the singles portion of the preseason Maharishi Tennis Challenge on March 11.

At No. 6, several players who were just outside the top six last season are expected to duke it out for the final spot. Pioneers in contention include senior Nico Martina, junior Daniel Pirc as well as sophomores Surya Sawhney, Avery Mullenneaux and David Fleshman.

Uncertainty continues into doubles play, where it’s anyone’s guess who will make up the top three teams.

Weiss will be looking for a new partner after earning bronze medals alongside Thatcher in Class 1A doubles from 2010 -2011. Either Arsanjani or Gelfand, who teamed up for No. 2 doubles last year, could join Weiss. Nite also will be looking for a new doubles partner with the loss of Schwartz.

“We’re trying a lot of different teams out right now,” Eyre said. “There are a whole lot of question marks right now, and the only realistic way to sort them out is to let it all come together at the beginning of the season.”

At 14 players, the squad is one of the biggest Maharishi School has ever had and allows the team more flexibility than in the past.

“Seven to eight guys usually make up the squad, so 14 guys is a luxury for us,” Eyre said. “As a coach I’m delighted there are more than enough guys. It breeds greater competition within the squad and is great for the students who are trying to prove themselves.”

In fact, the Pioneers also will be able to field a JV squad this season, and it’s only the second time ever the team has been able to do so.

Although the team is an undeniable favorite to return to the state final four — having finished second three straight years — Eyre is never about setting lofty goals. Instead, improvement continues to remain the focus.

“Our theme every year is, “How much can I improve?” And we’ll be returning to that as our baseline approach to things,” he said.

“A lot of things are out of our control. Nobody knows who the foreign exchange students are, nobody knows who the upcoming freshmen are. Tennis is a really hard sport to predict from year to year, so all we can think to control is our level of improvement,” Eyre added.

The tennis coach and his players will find out where they stand soon enough.

The Pioneers’ journey to the state meet begins with a home meet vs. West Burlington-Notre Dame on April 2.

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