Fairfield girls’ tennis will continue their team trek through the state playoffs on Friday at the middle school courts, but Wednesday the host Trojans dominated the district singles and doubles brackets while qualifying four ladies for the state tournament in Waterloo. Maharishi School also saw senior Olivia Goodale finish fourth in the singles bracket after winning her first two matches.
The sophomore state runner-up from a year ago repeated as district champion by defeating Frankie Taylor of West Burlington-Notre Dame and Ellie Molyneaux of Keokuk each 6-0, 6-0 in the first two rounds.
“I treated every game like a warmup for Anatta and made sure I had my serve going,” explained Gaskell. “At the beginning of the day I was a bit worried, but then by the third match I was playing, I felt my game.”
Gaskell then defeated cross-town rival Olivia Goodale from Maharishi school in consecutive sets 6-0. 6-0, setting up the district final rematch with Charoenkul.
After winning the first set 6-0, the Trojan sophomore went back and forth with her elder teammate before taking the second set 7-6 in a 7-2 tiebreaker.
“My first serve percentage was low,” admitted the two-time district champion and top seed in the state tournament while talking about adjustments she’ll need to make before a likely rematch. “It’s been good, but it let me down today. Normally I would get more points off of my first serve. This time I didn’t get many first serves in, so I had a higher percentage of second serves and that is obviously a weaker shot so she got the advantage on my serve instead of me starting with the advantage.”
The senior, two-time defending state champion won 6-0, 6-0 in the first two rounds against Lily Cadwallader of Fort Madison and Morgan Klaus of Davis County before needing just one extra game to eliminate Julia Thomas of Davis County 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinals.
“The first couple of matches went well for me because I was relaxed and was just out there playing my game,” said Charoenkul.
“I felt warmed up, but then when I got to [Yana] I felt so tense and I was trying to relax but I couldn’t. I don’t know what was going on, but, it happens.”
Charoenkul has taking a bit of a sidestep to share the spotlight with the sophomore Gaskell, even though she is still the best player in the state over the last three seasons according to the hardware.
“Over the years, Yana’s tennis game has really matured and I think it’s very impressive that I get to see that. I feel like when we play each other we bring out the best in each other. I’m just going to go out there and play my game and clear my head and make sure that I work for each point.”
Will the two have any problems sharing a car home after their possible second straight state title match?
“Of course not!” said Anatta.
“They get along together,” said Trojan skipper Heidi Grunwald. “If was different than that, it would be hard. As far as competitors, they compete well together. Yana is out there and she is boosting herself up vocally and Anatta is probably doing the same thing, we just don’t hear it. Just different game play.”
The Pioneer senior defeated Olivia Larson of Mt. Pleasant 6-3, 6-3 and Alyse Schmidt of Fort Madison 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the semifinals where she faced Gaskell.
“I was able to figure out the players and see what worked in the early rounds and I was adjusting my play from there,” said Goodale.
On facing the defending district champion ...
“I got to deuce her one point, so that was my big accomplishment,” joked the future Hawkeye freshman. “I really just have to make every rally count and see how long you can keep the ball in play. When you play a worse player, your play can go down so it’s kind of nice to play someone better and have your game go up with theirs and that happened for a few rallies.”
The second Maharishi School singles player took Morgan Klaus of Davis County to a tiebreaker before falling 4-6, 6-3, 3-6.
“I think I did well listening to my coach and adjusting between points and applying his help,” said Fenton.
“I just need to relax and focus on how I can do better between points, instead of what went wrong.”
Destiny Gridley and Tess Paton finished second in the bracket, unexpected qualifying for state after both players recently picked the game up and started playing together.
“Tess and Destiny were playing so well together,” said Grunwald. “I don’t think I’ve seen them move like that this season so I was totally impressed by them today, they did very well.”
“We really worked together well as a team and made some smart shots and that helped us in the long run,” explained Paton.
“We played [Keokuk] before and they annihilated us so we were shocked to even be playing them,” admitted the Trojan freshman.
“We didn’t think we could get that far so that was awesome.”
Paton just recently turned 14 after skipping a grade, but feels like being humble is the best bet.
“I usually just try to be positive with other people and be polite to other teammates. I try working as hard as everyone else even though I’m younger and smaller and not the typical winner.”
Gridley took time off to play other sports but just rejoined the tennis team this season and Paton just started playing herself.
“I could have never expected this,” said Tess. “Knowing that if I work hard and try my best it can help me keep that in mind in other future things.”
How will the duo avoid a let-down at state?
“We just have to stay positive and work as a team and remember that we’re both in this and we haven’t even been playing together that long but we’re just doing the best we can.”
Abby Schafer and Nellie Higdon won their first round match before falling 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
“It was our first actual game playing together,” explained Schafer, “but I think our communication was good in the first round because we had to since we don’t know how each other plays.”
What was different in the second round?
“They are really good players and it was a different pace than what I’m used to,” said the Trojan sophomore. “I think being new doubles partners and not being used to each other was part of it.”
“They hit the ball a lot harder than anyone I’ve ever played before,” said Higdon of their second-round opponent. “They were more accurate as well. Their hard-serves also threw us off.”