IOWA CITY – Mira Keeran and Maya Mallavarapu made history for the Cedar Falls girls’ tennis program Thursday afternoon at the University of Iowa Tennis Complex.
The Tigers’ doubles team outlasted the competition through six grueling hours of tennis over two matches to claim the Class 2A state championship with a three-set comeback win over West Des Moines Dowling’s Ava Petersen and Mackenzie Klein, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
This marks the first time the Tigers have won a tennis championship in singles, doubles or the team competition.
“It was a long day and I’m proud of me and Maya for fighting and pulling it out,” Keeran said. “We’re both just hard workers.
“We wanted to put it all out there and walking off the court there’s definitely nothing that I wish we would have done that was different.”
This marked the second state tournament run for Keeran, who placed third in doubles during the 2019 season, while the sophomore Mallavarapu excelled during her state debut.
“I was pretty nervous at the beginning but Mira has been a great doubles partner and we both were just really focused and put it all out there,” Mallavarapu said. “It’s been really fun and she’s always there for me. If I miss a shot, she’s always there to lift me up. It’s comforting to have a doubles partner like that.”
Keeran and Mallavarapu opened the day by recovering from a second-set hiccup to defeat Iowa City West’s Carolina Mascardo and Juliana Mascardo, 6-0, 5-7, 6-3.
In the championship match, the Tigers’ doubles team bounced back from a set one loss to go up 5-2 and eventually win the second set. Keeran and Mallavarapu then overcame a 3-1 deficit in the third set.
“They started moving their feet and being more aggressive at the net, taking charge of the points, and finishing points quickly and using their angles,” Cedar Falls coach Tara Sagers said. “These two have such a heart for the game. … Dowling is an amazing team and they really stepped up.”
Mallavarapu points out this title is the product of countless hours invested throughout the year to find success. She’s embraced the skills incorporated within doubles play throughout the spring.
“Going into the season, doubles was not my favorite,” Mallavarapu said. “I didn’t think I would be playing doubles at state, let alone a doubles state championship. During the season I’ve really loved to play at the net and it’s just been a lot of fun.”
Added Keeran, “Today we learned that hard work pays off. We have to grind and believe in ourselves and just go for everything because we’ve trained for each match, each point.”
Cedar Falls also made history on Thursday afternoon when sophomore Madison Sagers placed fifth for the program’s top singles finish. Sagers defeated Pleasant Valley’s Lauren Masengarb, 6-2, 6-1, and then finished with a win in a rematch against Dubuque Senior’s Riley O’Donnell, 6-1, 6-4.
Cedar Falls will play Iowa City West in the 2A state team semifinal round at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Johnston. Dowling and West Des Moines Valley will meet in the other semifinal with championship and third place matches to follow.
“Our work is not done and I’m really excited for Saturday,” Keeran said. “I know we’re doing to do great as a team.”
Tara Sagers feels Thursday’s breakthrough performances could position Cedar Falls for continued success. The Tigers don’t have a senior in their varsity lineup.
“It definitely puts us on the map as far as a contender for team and individuals and I think it’s going to inspire other young kids to maybe get out a racket and start playing tennis,” Tara Sagers said.