from the Fairfield Ledger -- Urbandale — The Maharishi School boys’ tennis team tied a state record with its eighth consecutive trip to the final four and departed Urbandale with its first-ever fourth-place finish Tuesday.
The Pioneers dropped a tightly contested 5-4 semifinal dual to Davenport Assumption before losing the third-place consolation to Boone, also 5-4. Assumption went on the win the championship match, beating St. Edmond of Fort Dodge 5-3.
In Maharishi School’s state-record 15 trips to the final four, the Pioneers have earned four state team championships (1991, 1999, 2000, 2002), seven runner-up finishes (1992, 1998, 1998, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011), three third-place finishes (2005, 2007, 2008) and now one fourth.
The Pioneers opened play Tuesday against Assumption and came within an eyelash of the state championship match. The Pioneers and Knights split the singles matches 3-3, but Assumption won two of three doubles matches to advance. Three matches came down to a third set, and all three were won by Assumption.
Thomas Weiss, one of only four Pioneers in the 25-year history to qualify for state all four seasons in both individual play and team tennis, blew past Luke Powers 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 singles. Freshman Sam Stickels, Weiss’ doubles partner at individual state days earlier, also grabbed a 6-1, 6-4 win over senior Eric Lammers at No. 3, and No. 4 Raphael Gelfand beat state singles qualifier Jimmy Huiskamp 7-6, 7-6. Sam Arsanjani and Gelfand won their No. 2 doubles match 7-6, 6-3.
Both Arsanjani at No. 1 singles and Surya Sawhney at No. 6 singles lost in three sets, while Weiss and Stickels lost No. 1 doubles in three sets.
In the loss to Boone, Maharishi School again split the singles matches 3-3 before dropping two of three in doubles.
Stickels and Gelfand continued their singles dominance with a pair of 6-3, 6-3 victories against Mitchell McPartland and Michael Soloman, respectively. Pioneer sophomore Solaris Nite found the win column with a three-set victory against Mason O’Neill at the No. 5 spot. Arsanjani and Gelfand, who won all four of his matches Tuesday, again won in doubles play for the Pioneers’ fourth and final victory. The duo topped Soloman and O’Neill 6-3, 6-0.
Following the Pioneers’ 9-3 season — with two of the three losses to state champions Assumption (Class 1A) and Iowa City West (2A) — the program’s 25-year cumulative dual match record stands at 240-67. Led by retiring head coach Lawrence Eyre all 25 seasons, the Pioneers have produced 16 state championships — seven singles, five doubles, four team — and 10 state runner-up finishes — one singles, two doubles and seven team.
“It has been a privilege to work with Maharishi School tennis players since 1988,” said Eyre. “I am retiring with a deep sense of fulfillment and with gratitude for the growth that 25 years of coaching high school tennis has brought me.”