Bobcats serve up another lopsided victory

Marshalltown tennis coach James Christensen is still searching for the best combinations in doubles play.

Changing the lineup against Saydel on Thursday was the only reason the Eagles were able to avoid the shutout. Other than that, the Bobcats were dominant again, winning all six singles matches and cruising to a 10-1 win at the MHS tennis courts.

“I expected to win at least 10 matches, and we did that,” Christensen said. “I was happy with their performances.”

Christensen put his No. 3 Blake Gimbel and No. 6 Jameson Eberline in the No. 1 doubles position and lost to Saydel’s top duo who also are the No. 1 and No. 2 in singles. He wanted two of his inexperienced players to be put in a pressure situation. Gimbel and Eberline lost the first set 6-1 but improved in the second set with a 6-4 loss.

“They responded well, and got better in the second game,” Christensen said. “We haven’t had a lot of outside practice time to see who is best with who so we wanted to work on some stuff. I coached those two on the fly tonight and drew up some stuff for them. But I liked how they competed.”

The singles matches were closer than Tuesday night against Newton, but Marshalltown was never threatened.

No. 1 Ryan Shomo won his match 6-0, 6-1, while No. 4 Adam Podhajsky and Eberline each won 6-1, 6-0. Gimbel and No. 5 Drayton Lents each won their singles match 6-3, 6-2.

Kalei Platt played Saydel’s normal No. 1 in the No. 2 positon and won 6-3, 6-4.

“The guy Kalei played is Saydel’s usual No. 1 but he lost one of those 1-in-10 challenge matches so he was in the that that two spot,” Christensen said. “Kalei responded well. He’s battling a shoulder injury but he took care of business.”

Podhajsky and Lents were the only two Bobcats to score two wins on the night. They teamed up to win their No. 2 doubles match 6-2, 6-1.

But it didn’t matter who was teamed up with who Thursday. The Bobcats likely would have won anyway.

“This is a match that I figured we would win regardless of how I matched things up,” Christensen said. “I was trying to experiment with things because we haven’t been outside enough to know who plays well with one another. We are mixing stuff up and we’ll do more Saturday and hopefully have things finalized by Tuesday’s match with Valley.”

It is hard to truly know where Marshalltown (2-0) is at after two easy wins. Christensen said his Bobcats will know more Saturday when they play in the West Des Moines Valley Invitational.

One thing does stand out though when it comes to areas that need improvement.

“We need to put points away and execute better,” Christensen said. “We are doing a lot of blocking the ball back and extending the point. We can do that now. But if we do that against Valley, they will shove back in our face. And that won’t be good.”

The competition will ramp up this weekend for the Bobcats. Shomo in particular will get a chance to prove he belongs in the conversation with the best players in the state when he faces three-time Class 1A runner-up Aaron Chalstrom of Fort Dodge St. Edmond.

“Ryan gets pushed by Kalei but not to the level that he will by some of the best teams we will face,” Christensen said. “(Shomo) is a top 10 player in the state in my opinion and he will prove that this weekend. He may not win. But he always gives his best against a great opponent. We will see where he and the team is at this weekend.”

The biggest surprise so far this season has been Gimbel, who has never played competitive tennis prior to this year and has already moved into the No. 3 singles position.

“He challenged up and won that three spot with a super tiebreaker win over (Podhajsky),” Christensen said. “I imagine those two will battle for that third spot all season long. I knew in sixth or seventh grade that Blake was a natural athlete. He’s a Bobcat. He knows he can contribute. You can’t teach 6-foot-5 and athletic.

“He’s having fun. He wants to help us win and he wants to win. It doesn’t matter if he is playing Saydel, his teammates or his mother, he wants to win.”

The competition Saturday includes West Des Moines Valley and Fort Dodge St. Edmond. The Tigers were a top-four squad in Class 2A last year, while St. Edmond was runner-up in Class 1A.

The Bobcats will travel to Valley on Tuesday. MHS next plays at home when it hosts the Bobcat Invitational at 9 a.m. on April 13.