By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
The senior tennis season for Abby Jans started with an injury, some uncertainty and tempered expectations.
Just more than two months later it ended with a state title.
Jans teamed with sophomore Emma Koch to win the Class 2A doubles title with a 7-6, 6-3 win over the Cedar Rapids Washington duo of Hannah Sherman and Kelly King earlier this month at Prairie Ridge Sports Complex in Ankeny.
“It was just an amazing feeling to win a state title especially with Emma,” Jans said. “Everybody was so ecstatic.”
The way things started for Jans she definitely didn’t envision ending her season clutching a state championship trophy.
Jans began her final prep season on the sideline after sustaining a knee injury that she feared would end her career.
The injury ended up being less serious than Jans initially feared and kept her sidelined for just a few weeks.
“When the season first started I didn’t have high hopes,” Jans said. “I was super close to having to drop out of the team because of my injury but thankfully things started to turn around.”
Things turned around in a hurry for Jans and the Women of Troy.
The lone senior in the regular varsity lineup, Jans helped West High to one of the most successful seasons in recent history that included an 11-0 start in dual meets.
Jans posted an 18-1 singles record that included a perfect 16-0 mark at her regular spot at number three singles as West High went 19-1 while reaching the state team semifinals for the first time since 2013.
“She has just been really great to have,” West High coach Amie Villarini said. “She has grown since her freshman year just with her mental game. She has learned to have patience, she has always had the power and the length and her height and her serve has really improved.”
It was in doubles play where Jans really excelled.
Koch and Jans played only eight times together during the regular season but went 7-1 at number one doubles and cruised to the regional title to earn the fourth seed at state.
The relative lack of court time together this season wasn’t a factor for Jans and Koch who fell right into a rhythm at state.
“It wasn’t difficult because we had played with each other enough to know each other’s game styles and we have very complementary games so that didn’t cause a problem for us at all,” Jans said. “Emma and I are both super confident in each other and that helps us a lot. I put a lot of my faith in her and I think she puts a lot of her faith in me and relying on each other like that really makes us play well together.”
Jans and Koch won back-to-back straight set matches to reach the semifinals where they outlasted top-seeded Abby Reis and Jackie Kaiser of Urbandale 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.
“I definitely knew it was a possibility that they could win, it was just a matter of could they do it,” Villarini said. “I was really proud of them for staying strong in the pressure points. There were a lot of big pressure points that they had to play and they stayed tough.”
The semifinal victory was a huge confidence boost for the duo that was playing together at the state tournament for the first time.
“After winning the semifinal match for sure we thought we could do it, that was a huge deal breaker for us,” Jans said. “We knew going into that match it was going to be our toughest match and winning that really gave us the confidence we needed.”
Jans and Koch closed out the title with the win over Mississippi Valley Conference rivals Sherman and King.
The following day Jans closed out her career with a pair of singles wins helping West High to a third-place finish in the 2A team tournament.
West High finished third at the state team tournament falling to West Des Moines Dowling 5-4 in the semifinals before defeating Ames 5-2 in the consolation match.
“It was incredible to play at the top four in state,” Jans said. “It was so awesome to be able to finish my high school tennis career with my teammates.”