After rumbling through Atlantic to begin the state tournament Tuesday in Des Moines, Maharishi School ran into a Waterloo Columbus buzz saw in the championship game, but can once again call themselves the second best tennis team in the state. After coming up with the same result a season ago, the The Pioneer lineup that returned in tact absorbed everybody’s best shot to once again meet the lofty standards head coach Lawrence Eyre has set for his program.
“It matches the dream I had for this team. I knew Columbus was loaded. Everyone in the state knew Columbus was loaded,” Eyre said. “This isn’t the kind of thing you say to your team, but it was pretty clear everyone was playing for second.”
It took the Pioneers just over an hour to get past third-seeded Atlantic by a score of 5-0, and as a representation of their championship match fight, the same 5-0 score they lost by took Columbus 1 ¾ hours to complete.
“We really played terrific tennis all day, and even though we lost in the afternoon, I can’t claim we played any worse,” said Eyre. “Within the points, it was pretty even. It’s just a little frustrating when you play at a high level for so long but have nothing to show for it.”
The stacked Columbus lineup featured third-place singles finisher Jim Nora at No. 1, fifth-place singles finisher James McManus at No. 2 and a pair that crowned themselves Class 1A doubles champions last Saturday playing No. 3 and 4 in Alex Bernt and Mike Goerdt. Nora won 6-1, 6-3 vs. Thomas Weiss, McManus won 6-1, 6-3 vs. Joseph Gelfand and Bernt tallied a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Derek Thatcher. Sam Arsanjani gave Goerdt a run for his money and held a third-set lead before the match was suspended due to Columbus wins at No. 5 and 6 that clinched the match.
Kyle Ralson won 7-5, 6-3 vs. Jay Stewart and Adam Walleser took a 6-3, 6-3 match from Raphael Gelfand to complete the team state title.
“Their lineup is terrific at the top and tough at the bottom — hats off to them and they are certainly deserving state champions,” Eyre added.
The loss was a turning of the tables for the Pioneers coming off a 5-0 win vs. Atlantic in round one. Weiss was the only to not finish his match, as Maharishi School rolled to the necessary five points to secure the victory. Joseph Gelfand won 6-1, 6-0 vs. Derek Tjepkes, Thatcher won 6-0, 6-2 vs. Mitch Leiferman, Arsanjani won 6-2, 6-0 vs. Bryant Johnson, Stewart won 6-1, 6-3 vs. Jordan Holmes and Raphael Gelfand won 6-0, 6-2 vs. Chet McNeeley.
The win was part of Maharishi School's 13th trip to the state tennis final four — a mark that sets a Class 1A record and ties them for the all-time record alongside West Des Moines Valley and Cedar Rapids Washington. Of those 13 final fours, the Pioneers have won four state titles, finished second six times and placed third three times — never once leaving the tournament without a victory.
Atlantic won a 5-3 decision against Aplington-Parkersburg in the third-place match. The result proved the seeding established by the four coaches was justified — an experimental process for this season that coaches hope to have back in the future.
After finishing 9-2 this spring with the only other loss coming on the road against Iowa City West, Eyre has coached the Pioneers to a 222-62 record in his 23 seasons. But now he says goodbye to seniors Jay Stewart and Joseph Gelfand, who has played on four final four teams in his four years as a Pioneer.
Four members from the squad including Weiss, Thatcher, Arsanjani and Raphael Gelfand will be back in 2011 and figure to be joined by a member of the 2009 state runner-up team Brenton Schwartz for yet another run at the state tournament.