They say experience is key. In that case the Waukee boys’ tennis team looks to have the key for a successful postseason run here in 2018.
Tomorrow will officially open up district play for Iowa High School boys tennis, and for the Warriors, their heading will take them to Johnston. The Warriors produced a fine regular season amassing eight wins and just three losses which included a defeat to the reigning Class 2A champions. The Warriors head into the postseason averaging round seven wins per contest.
Now with just one day separating Waukee from postseason action, head coach Eric Wetzel has had time to evaluate what his team will bring to the table and as he mentioned, experience will be a big part.
“We’ve made a lot of progress with getting our younger players more experience,” began Wetzel. “This season all of those who really haven’t had a shot at varsity before got a chance to play on the varsity level this season. We’ve given different guys chances to show what they can do so that come postseason time, we have a really good idea of what we can expect from certain players.”
The Warriors are not without veteran leadership on the team which comes about in the form of Noah Burmeister and Nick Weyers among others. Burmeister comes off a singles state qualifying season a year prior and has joined Weyers in having a great season. Weyers has totaled a 7-2 match record this season bringing his overall game record to 105-42. Both Burmeister and Weyers have been important cornerstones of a great senior class that Wetzel spoke about.
“Our seniors this year have been phenomenal,” started Wetzel. “They’ve seen a lot and have been able to handle nearly every challenge thrown at them this season. They’ve also helped the younger players grow immensely to be as productive as they are now.”
One of those such youthful players who has benefited from the likes of the senior leadership has been freshman Will Ecklund. Will has started nearly every match in the number two position this year and leaves his first high school regular season with an 8-2 match record. What’s been quite the treat to watch has been they way Nick Weyers has helped the freshman, pairing up nicely to be one of the strongest doubles teams for the Warriors. Wetzel talked about what a great combination both Ecklund and Weyers has brought to the team.
“There’s not a whole lot that I don’t like about what they bring to the table,” said Wetzel. “Their match up against Linn-Mar was a championship caliber match. With Nick, he has the skills but also that valuable experience and his wisdom and calm demeanor even in tough situations has helped Will who has played at the USTA level but not in a doubles setting. Now Will is able to stay calm during nearly every match because he’s seen the ways that Nick has been able to overcome various challenges. That combination is an excellent blend of youth and experience with a whole lot of talent that will be very beneficial for us down the road.”
From Ecklund to Weyers, and Burmeister to Ummadi, the Warriors certainly have a dangerous mix of talent and experience which has helped them out even in the losses which were all against state caliber competition. Coach Wetzel often referred back to the three Warrior losses as great learning moments for his team, including the match against perennial powerhouse, Linn-Mar.
“What Linn-Mar brought to the table was a senior heavy team that has won a state championship together,” began Wetzel. “What we’ve seen against them is that they put a lot more on their shots than the majority of teams we’ve faced.”
Coach Wetzel added the true benefit of just playing a team like Linn-Mar.
“While our schedule has been tough overall, I would consider Linn-Mar to be an elite program,” said Wetzel. “For our guys to see what elite tennis looks like, it gives them something to be hungry for. A player that I really saw benefit was Sam Fouts, our normal number four who was able to string together a lot of quality shots against that elite competition. We’re never thrilled with a loss but the match against Linn-Mar was a big learning step for us.”
Throughout all the derived experience, one thing that Wetzel mentioned as a big positive for the Warriors has been battling the weather. Several meets had to be rescheduled with a lot of the early meets bearing unusually cold weather. The biggest obstacle however, has been the wind that at times has ranged from 15-20 miles per hour this April alone. Wetzel was very pleased with the way his team has played the wind so far.
“Playing the wind correctly means the difference between winning or loosing,” started Wetzel. “The team that uses the wind as a tool is the team the has the advantage. We’ve had to practice in a lot of wind this year and we’ve kept telling the players to recognize where the wind is coming from and use the strategies for wind at their backs or from the front.”
Throughout all the ups and downs and challenges, the Warriors have been one of the most formidable teams in Class 2A. They will continue their season, postseason style tomorrow in Johnston. The Warriors will be among the field consisting of Council Bluffs, Abraham Lincoln, Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, Des Moines Hoover, Johnston, and Urbandale. The coaches meeting will start off the festivities at 8 a.m. with the seeding meeting to follow immediately after. Actual playing time will begin around 9 a.m.