OTTUMWA – The Ottumwa and Dowling Catholic boys tennis teams battled deep into the night on Tuesday at Jon Kneen Courts, spending well over five hours completing all 11 matches.
Four of those five hours saw Trey Hull out on a court battling for wins in both singles and doubles play against the 10th-ranked (2A) Maroons. After over two hours, two full sets and a 24-point decisive tiebreaker, Hull was right back in another lengthy battle looking to keep a perfect record in tact with Bulldog teammate Jarrett Wellings in doubles play.
Hull endured, helping Ottumwa pick up what proved to be two key wins during a signature CIML crossover dual victory for the Bulldogs. After outlasting David Klemm 5-7, 6-4, 1-0 (13-11) in the No. 2 singles match, Hull joined Wellings in battling back for a dual-clinching win in doubles play rallying for a 1-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-7) win in the No. 2 doubles match over Austin Nquyen and Brody Frye lifting the Bulldogs to a 7-4 victory in the second of Ottumwa’s four home duals this week.
“Tennis is such a mental game. You have to keep telling yourself that you can do this and you will do this,” Trey Hull said. “You have to believe in yourself. If you hesitate and take off on a shot, you will miss it. You’ll cause it to hit the frame. You have to relax and make sure your feet are on the ground. It’s really all about how you handle things mentally. “
For Hull, his mind went back to a match last year that took place in West Des Moines during an 11-0 sweep by Dowling over the Bulldogs. Hull, playing in the No. 3 singles match, had a chance to win a second-set tiebreaker that would have sent the players into a match-deciding third-set breaker.
Klemm, however, rallied back scoring the final eight points to the match erasing six set points for Hull in a 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) win. History seemed as thought it might be about to repeat itself on Tuesday in the decisive third-set tiebreaker with Hull up 9-4 and Klemm needing to erase five match points.
Hull again found it difficult to put Klemm away, missing on potential winners and double-faulting on a serve to try and end the match. Suddenly, five straight points had been scored by Klemm, again erasing several chances for Hull to put the Dowling senior away.
“I’m much better mentally this year than I was a season ago. I’ve played a lot more, but he (Klemm) has also played a lot more tennis since that last match,” Hull said. “It just came down to mentally believing I could win that match that made the difference.”
It didn’t hurt that Klemm’s fifth straight point forced a changeover on the 18th point of the tiebreaker. Almost serving as a timeout, Hull was able to regroup and refocus never falling behind giving himself three more match points before finally forcing a return by Klemm to catch the net to clinch a very satisfying singles win for Hull.
“This is the most satisfying win I’ve ever had,” Hull said. “That was much more of a mental match. You had to get the ball in and had put the ball away in key situations. I think that really favored the aggressor. I kept telling myself that, if I could be the first one to get to the net, I could put the ball away. “
After two-and-a-half hours of grueling singles tennis, Hull got about 20 minutes of rest as his Ottumwa teammates were putting away four of the other five singles matches against the Maroons leading quickly into doubles play. Wellings got even less rest as one of the second singles matches out on the court, winning 6-2 and 6-4 over Jack Seda in the No. 4 singles match to give Ottumwa a 4-0 lead in the dual.
“Throughout warm-ups and the first few games, I was really kind of feeling it out to see what worked against (Seda),” Wellings said. “I found out he didn’t like a lot of slice and spin on the ball, so I tried to focus on doing that a lot. You just have to work to your strength and work to the other guy’s weaknesses.”
With short rest of the Hull and Wellings, going up against two Dowling opponents that didn’t play a varsity singles match, the unbeaten Ottumwa teammates fell behind quickly as Nguyen and Frye won a quick 6-1 opening set. Hull and Wellings battled back and forth in the second set before finally regaining their footing, winning the final four games to force another decisive tiebreaker.
“It definitely took us a set to get our energy level back up,” Wellings said. “We lost the first few games and kind of gave them that set. It’s always a struggle when you go right from singles to doubles. It’s a different serve. It’s a different style of play. You have to readjust, which is tough when both of you are tired and moving slow at the start. “
By the end, Hull and Wellings were back in form improving to 5-0 on the season finishing with a flourish capturing the 10-7 third-set tiebreaker giving Ottumwa the dual by opening a 6-3 lead with just two matches to finish. Toby Schmidt and Logan Storto closed out the night on a winning note for Ottumwa with a 6-2, 7-5 win in the top doubles match over Andrew Scott and Klemm, sending both teams off the court with 3-2 dual records shortly after 8:30 pm
“We came out to win and that’s what we did,” Ottumwa head boys tennis coach Joe Roberts said. “We saw a huge change in the focus of the boys. They were dedicated to it. They came out wanting it. They came out for blood. It didn’t matter who Dowling Catholic played. We were going to play really well.”
Ottumwa will have a much-deserved day off from competition before hosting Des Moines Lincoln in CIML Metro conference action on Thursday at 3 pm