Dia Huggins and Sam Stickels were inducted into the Maharishi School Hall of Fame for their outstanding tennis careers, and the Pioneer standouts' stellar play at the state co-ed tournament in Des Moines yesterday confirmed the honor bestowed on them during graduation ceremonies this past week.
32 teams entered the day long competition. The last team standing would win five times before hoisting the championship trophy, no small task on the hottest day of the year. With temperatures topping out at 94 degrees at Waveland Park, coaches and spectators sought relief from the blistering sun beneath shade trees and beach umbrellas, emerging from time to time to supply their charges with gatorade and encouragement.
"Dia and Sam were the last team standing...they were the most resilient...their last three matches were 'gut check' contests that could have swung in either direction," explained Pioneer coach, Steve Briggs. "Again and again they came up with clutch shots with the match on the line."
In the semi-final, the Pioneer seniors came from a set down to overtake the North Polk team of Greiner and Madsen, 4-6, 6-3, (10-5).
In the championship match, Stickels and Huggins breezed through the first set against Des Moines Christian, but the momentum shifted midway through the second set, forcing a 3rd set tiebreaker. With the championship in the balance, the Pioneers produced their best tennis of the day, closing out the match by the score of 6-3, 3-6, (10-8).
"Normally, doubles is not as physically demanding as singles, but playing five matches in this heat with a state championship on the line proved to be a real endurance test," conceded Briggs. "The teams were at the courts by 7:30 am, but the tournament wasn't decided until 6pm."
"Everyone's happy for Dia and Sam...They've proven to be an incredibly resourceful couple."