Urbandale nets fifth straight against Bobcat boys

The Marshalltown boys’ tennis team practiced in sleet – for 20 minutes, mind you – just to get on the court. Opportunities to get outside this spring have been a rarity for the Bobcats, so much so that the elements can’t even stop them.

But on Monday, Urbandale did.

The J-Hawks had a 6-3 lead when rain finally blanketed the MHS tennis courts, forcing off the remaining two doubles matches in an already-decided CIML dual meet.

The swing match being the No. 3 singles bout, Urbandale’s former No. 1 singles player Jack Harper held off Marshalltown’s tennis newcomer Blake Gimbel in a second-set tiebreak, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7). The senior Gimbel, who has been playing tennis for just three months, served his way to a 7-6 lead in the tiebreak but watched a forehand return sail long for the first of three straight points for Harper to finish it.

The decision gave Urbandale its sixth match win of the meet, sealing it for the visiting J-Hawks.

“I think (Gimbel) knew with everybody else already off, and I was egging him on to fight for every point he could get,” MHS coach James Christensen said. “Blake’s such a great competitor but he’s playing a guy who was their number one last year. He had a tough draw but he really performed pretty well.”

Ryan Shomo at No. 1 and Kalei Platt at No. 2 picked up Marshalltown’s two singles victories, both in straight sets. Shomo dispatched Brian Carrier, 6-2, 6-2, and Platt defeated Noah Hart, 6-1, 6-4.

The only doubles victory for Marshalltown came from Adam Podhajsky and Drayton Lents, who won the No. 2 bout 6-2, 6-4, over Carrier and Erik Culp.

With rain fast approaching and the outcome of the dual already decided, Urbandale took the first set in both the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles bouts. Once the court began to get slippery, Christensen and Urbandale coach Steve Harper agreed to pull their players off the court.

It marked the J-Hawks’ fifth consecutive dual meet win over MHS. The Bobcats’ last win in the series came in 2006, though the 2011 face-off was headed decidedly in Marshalltown’s direction before rain swept the dual away.

“Urbandale’s a team we, in my five or six years as coach, have always been somewhere in the 4-7, 5-6 range. It’s always been close. Their team matches up pretty evenly with us.

“Ryan had his opponent overwhelmed at number one singles, but after that they were all pretty good matches.”

The Bobcats will have a week to practice, weather-permitting of course, prior to a four-meet week. Marshalltown goes to Grinnell next Tuesday, hosts Ames on April 30, and travels to Mason City and Fort Dodge on May 2-3.

“Our conditioning is fine, we just need to play more tennis,” Christensen added. “There are things we usually get to in the preseason that we haven’t even talked about yet.”