CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Mike Knox has plenty of options with his Cedar Falls girls’ tennis team this season.
What the Tigers haven’t had is plenty of luck, which was the case again Saturday as they split a pair of Mississippi Valley Conference duals. Playing on the University of Northern Iowa courts, Cedar Falls fell to Dubuque Wahlert by a 6-3 score before bouncing back to top Dubuque Senior, 5-4.
“We have started this year off slow at 3-6, but we could easily be 6-3 or 7-2,” Knox explained. “We have had so many close matches that went the other way, just like today.
“Our team strength is our depth. We are so even from our one seed to number seven. It has truly been a challenge to sort things out and be fair about the whole thing.”
One of the consistent combatants for the Tigers was junior Sophie Mallaro, who rallied back from a 10-7 setback earlier to give her Tigers momentum with a hard-fought, 10-8 victory over Virginia Meurer of Senior.
With all the other singles matches completed at the time, Mallaro and Meurer took center court and attracted the attention of all those in attendance.
“I guess I didn’t notice all the people watching, so it did not make me nervous,” claimed Mallaro. “They were watching her, too, so it was nothing. All I was trying to do was stay relaxed and let my opponent feel stressed and let her make the mistakes.”
Mallaro rallied from a 4-2 deficit and took a 6-5 lead, then held on for the win. Meurer made the mistake for the final point, hitting her return into the net.
With Knox’s youth movement making some noise, sophomore Ariana Mitra made her shots heard as she powered big points off her opponents’ volley.
Mitra was moved to the number two slot for the afternoon matches and pushed her opponent hard despite a 10-5 loss. Her numerous thunderous returns frustrated her opponent at times, allowing Mitra to come from behind and close the gap.
“My style of play is to hit the ball hard,” Mitra said. “I definitely like to play smart but yet aggressive. By going against the higher seeds it will make me better for next year.”
“We have a couple of freshman, Maddie McCann and Becky Hughes, who have played very well and are starting to push the older girls,” Knox said. “We will just continue to evaluate everyone and get ready for our next match. If we play to our abilities, we can win. I think the girls have responded well so far.”
McCann won both her matches, and Hughes was undefeated in her two doubles attempts. Senior Maya Amjadi won both of her singles bouts.
CEDAR FALLS 5, DUBUQUE SENIOR 4
SINGLES - Ashton Stoppellmoor (DS) def. Halle Benson 10-0; Ella Wolff (DS) def. Ariana Mitra 10-5; S. Mallaro (CF) def. Virginia Meurer 10-8; Hannah Mallaro (CF) def. Olivia Vogt 10-8;Maya Amjadi (CF) def. Madeline George 10-6; Madison McCann (CF) def. Gabrielle Daoud 10-2.
DOUBLES - Wolff/Meurer def. Benson/H. Mallaro 10-8; Stoppellmoor/Vogt def. Mitra/Amjadi 10-3; S. Mallaro/Becky Hughes def. George/Daoud 10-7.
DUBUQUE WAHLERT 6, CEDAR FALLS 3
SINGLES -Courtney Schneider (DW) def. Benson 10-4; Caroline Ott (DW) def. Hannah Mallaro 10-0; Elizabeth Ott (DW) def. S. Mallaro 10-7; Haley Heffman (DW) def. Ariana Mitra 10-5; Amjadi (CF) def. Katie Hendricks 10-0; Madison McCann (CF) def. Maria Wright 10-1.
DOUBLES - C.Ott/E.Ott def. H. Mallaro/Amjadi 10-2; Schneider/Hoffman def. Benson/S.Mallaro 10-4; Mitra/Hughes def. Emily Oberhoffer/Nicole Schmidt 10-1.