BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A good start in singles matches couldn’t carry into doubles action as the FMHS girls tennis team dropped their first dual meet of the year to Mount Pleasant at home Tuesday night.
2016 state doubles qualifiers Katie Larson and Hope Gray struggled with the Mount Pleasant net game in dropping the No. 1 seed doubles to the Panthers’ Meagan Sutherland and Kylie Sourwine, 3-8. The Panthers were able to finish a lot of points at the net. Larson and Gray started to react to the tight net play by moving the Panthers around, but just couldn’t get back into the match.
The ‘Hounds split with Mt. Pleasant in singles action with one of the more exciting matches of the day coming at No. 2 singles featuring Hounds junior Kearstyn Johnson. Johnson lost 8-9 in a 1-7 tiebreak to Thuan Tran in a match that lasted from the start of the event most of the way through doubles action.
“Kearstyn put up a heck of a fight,” said FMHS Head Coach Amy Doherty. “I’m very impressed with how much she has improved.”
Doherty said her team, which only has one senior in Gray, has some work to do but looked pretty good for the first match of the season.
“Pretty rough start,” she said. “Our top four looked great in singles but fell apart when it came to doubles. We need to iron out the kinks.”
At No. 1 singles, Larson shut out Sutherland 8-0, Gray won over Mt. Pleasant’s Quin Whaley, 8-3 at No. 3 singles, and sophomore Larissa Ferrill got an 8-3 win at No. 4 over Sourwine, 8-3 for all the Hounds’ wins on the day.
At No. 5, Chloe Blind lost 3-8 to Erin Zihlman and Mercedee Doty lost in a close match at No. 6 singles 6-8 to Sheyanne Walter.
“I’m very proud of the victories by Katie, Hope and Larissa,” Doherty said. “I could make up excuses about not getting enough time to practice outside because of the weather, but the other team has battled the same thing, so I think we just went into doubles overconfident and it hopefully was a signal that we need to focus and put our energy into not letting it happen again.”
The No. 2 doubles team of Johnson and Ferrill lost 2-8 to Tran and Whaley, while Blind and Doty fell 6-8 to Zihlman and Walter.
The girls host Burlington on Thursday beginning at 4:30 p.m.
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