’Cats search for silver lining after 11-0 loss

With almost an entirely new varsity lineup that’s still in flux, James Christensen isn’t getting caught up in the numbers.

He’s looking for improvement.

The Marshalltown boys’ tennis coach had at least a few things to build from despite the one-sided results of Tuesday’s home dual against West Des Moines Valley.

The Tigers cruised through an 11-0 victory, winning 22 of 23 sets, and giving up no more than two games in all but two of those sets. It was nearly a complete reversal of the Bobcats’ last competition on the court – a 10-1 win over Newton – though the progress was apparent in Christensen’s eyes.

“The competition will help us down the line,” Christensen said. “The result is almost a complete flip-flop from Newton but we played much better tennis today. Andrew Walker and Ryley Faircloth played their best tennis of the year. It didn’t show up in the scores but they were in every single spot hitting great tennis shots.”

Walker lost 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3, while Faircloth dropped a 6-0, 6-2 decision at No. 4.

The improved play did show up in the score for Eric Weinberg who claimed the Bobcats’ lone set to force a third set tiebreaker at No. 4 singles. Yasha Litvak, one of six returning state qualifiers from last year’s Class 2A fourth-place finisher, broke away in the final set for a 6-1, 4-6, (10-3) victory, though not without Weinberg applying some pressure.

“Yasha is a very good player, but he’s somebody that can get rattled when playing the right type of guy,” Christensen said. “Eric was very much on his game in the second set and he gave Yasha some fits and was able to capitalize on them. Yasha came alive in the super tiebreak but it was a great effort by Eric to get a third set and be in a position to win.”

The performance was even more impressive considering Litvak usually plays higher in the lineup for Valley (4-1) but is working his way back after a suspension from earlier in the season Christensen said.

Tony Smith had the next closest match for MHS (1-3) dropping a 6-3, 6-0 decision to Mason McCoy at No. 6. Brandin Chaloupek and Joe Cahill, the Bobcats’ No. 5 doubles tandem, gave the Tigers their toughest test in a 6-2, 6-0 loss to Brook Norwood and Jake Rodgers.

“We’ve had some movement and had to move some guys up the ladder so everyone is kind of learning some new spots,” Christensen said. “Our normal doubles teams got shuffled a bit other than the Andrew Walker-Weinberg duo. Everyone else is kind of playing with someone new.”

Marshalltown faces another tough test against Ankeny Centennial on the road Thursday at 4 p.m., before hosting the Bobcat Invite Saturday at 9 a.m., which will include Ames, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Newton and Southeast Polk.

The Little Cyclones have been a constant thorn in the Bobcats’ side but also are undergoing a roster makeover after losing five of their top six singles players from last May’s third-place finish at state. Ames will still be dangerous as usual though MHS is eyeing a better showing after last year’s 10-1 defeat and hopefully one that’s shows up in the numbers.

“Ames will be tough as always. I think we have a roster that can compete with them a little better this year,” Christensen said. “That’s a big goal for us – to win some matches at the Bobcat Invite against them as well as our dual.”

Notebook

Valley’s lone loss came against two-time defending champion Iowa City West, 9-2. … The Tigers defeated MHS 7-1 last year in a rain-shortened meet in West Des Moines.