Two-sport Champ Koch Looking to Add to Title Count

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Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – Standing nearly 6-feet tall while possessing the speed and agility of a smaller player Emma Koch has everything you are looking for on the court.

The combination of speed, strength and agility has made Koch a three-year starter and all-conference performer on the basketball court for West High.

That same rare combination of physical talents make Koch a standout on another court as well.

One of the top tennis players in the state, Koch is already a two-time state qualifier with a sixth-place singles title and a state doubles championship to her credit.

“It gives her a big leg up on most people because she is just physically so good,” West High tennis coach Amie Villarini said. “She is a race horse, she’s the quarter horse, she’s the LeBron James, she is the whole package physically. Strength, speed, agility, eye-hand coordination, just all those intangibles that you can’t coach she’s got them.”

Koch showed her talent this season on the basketball court averaging 9.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while helping West High to the 5A state title.

At 5-foot-11 with the ability to shoot from the perimeter Koch is a college basketball prospect.

Before Koch helped West High down top-ranked City High in the 5A title game in March she was already a state doubles champ in tennis winning the 2A title last season with teammate Abby Jans.

She finished sixth at the state tournament in singles as a freshman.

“As a basketball program we expected to win the state tournament at some point, that was just our goal, tennis was a bit more of a surprise,” Koch said. “We played really well together but that one was probably less expected.”

Juggling the two sports is no easy chore for Koch who makes time for both tennis and basketball during the spring, summer and fall.

In the winter though it’s all hoops which makes picking up a technical game like tennis difficult when spring rolls around.

“This year our basketball schedule was crazy so I didn’t really get to pick up a racket that much and it has showed,” Koch said. “This year I have definitely been more rusty than the past years because it’s so technical, all those strokes have to be there. A big thing for me right now is just hitting as many balls as I can to try to get back in the groove.”

Koch faced the same situation with a short turnaround between sports last season as West High advanced to semifinals at state basketball.

It took its toll early as Koch started the season 4-5 in singles play but won eight of her final nine matches in the number one singles spot to help West High to a third-place team finish.

She teamed with Jans to go 11-1 down the stretch and win the 2A doubles title.

“The first half of the year I was just trying to get back into it and the second half of the year I hit my groove,” Koch said. “I think my net game improved a lot last year just because I was playing more doubles than the previous years and I think that was big and that’s showed this year. That’s what came back first this year and that has been helpful.”

A two-sport athlete during her prep playing days Villarini knows the challenge in juggling the two sports.

Especially sports like basketball and tennis that require lots of time and repetition.

“You can’t just show up and be good, you have to be trained and take lots of reps so the fact that she is a state champion in basketball, a sport where you have to have a lot of reps, a lot of shooting a lot of practice and hours and tennis where you need a lot of hours is impressive,” Villarini said. “To be a state champion in both sports is huge.”

Her length makes Koch a matchup problem for opponents on both ends of the basketball court.

She likes to use that length to her advantage on the tennis court as well.

“My strategy is definitely to get up to the net,” Koch said. “My ground strokes aren’t great right now so I get up to the net where I am comfortable. It’s hard to get it around tall girls and it’s intimidating so that is something that I think helps my game.”

Koch leads a strong group of returners for West High which will look to improve on its third-place finish from last season.

Her younger sister Audrey joins the team this season and will add another talented player to the West High lineup.

“I think this team is going to be really good,” Koch said. “Every other team in the state lost some really strong seniors, that was a really strong senior class and we lost Abby but we also brought in two new strong freshman. We all work really well together and everyone has really high goals for this season.”