“We knew the singles draw had some big guns with defending state champ, Sam Jones from Clear Lake, along with his friend and practice partner, North Polk’s Nathan Greiner. Pioneer captain, Chandre Morales wasn’t able to beat Jones in their morning matchup, but he bounced back to claim 3rd place by soundly defeating 3rd seed AJ Jackson, 6-2, 6-4, in the afternoon.
“There’s a reason why Sam Jones is one of a handful of two-time state champions,” explained Pioneer coach, Steve Briggs. “I’ve been watching Sam for 4 years. He’s got impeccable court instincts. You never catch him off balance, or out of position. He moves so effortlessly,” said Pioneer coach, Steve Briggs. “Chandre fought hard, but he was a bit overmatched today." Morales played Jones as close as anyone, but Jones was relentless in tracking down every ball.
In doubles action, the sophomore duo of Kai Vessey and Daniel Zhu came out of no where to capture 3rd place. “Kai and Daniel were the youngest team in the field. They were also the most inexperienced as a team,” said Briggs. “I couldn’t get our boys seeded because they had no resume, having played together only once this spring. Before the tournament, we joked that I should inform the seeding committee that Daniel and Kai were undefeated in Middle School.”
In their semi-final match, Daniel and Kai battled the #1 seeded Assumption, but came up a bit short. “We got off to a slow start, but we played Assumption closer than any other team. To be honest, I think we were the 2nd best team in the tournament.” The Pioneers went down 6-2, 7-5 to Assumption who went on to defeat Dubuque Wahlert 6-1, 6-2 in the final.
After losing to Assumption, the Pioneer team claimed 3rd place by defeating Clear Lake, 6-0, 6-2. “Clear Lake’s players were both three or four sport athletes. They were big and physical, but our boys play a subtler style. We don't overpower opponents, but we generally outplay them,” said Briggs.
"The season was a bit short for our young team,” reflected Briggs. “Another couple weeks of practice and we might have made a run at the team title.” The Pioneers fell to Grinnell in the state team competition last week.