Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – According to the West High lineup Jessica Moonjely is a number three singles player.
The sophomore posted her second consecutive unbeaten regular season while playing primarily in the three singles slot this spring.
Despite the number three designation her coaches and teammates claim Moonjely is closer to a number one than the traditional number three.
On Wednesday she showed why.
Moonjely cruised to the Class 2A, Region 8 title on Wednesday defeating top-seeded Bihotza James-Lejarcegui of City High 6-2, 6-1 in the championship match.
“A lot of it is confidence because we have a lot of depth on our team and a lot of times girls get it in their minds that “I’m number four player or I’m a number 3 player’ when really we have three or four players that could play in the top two on other teams,” West High coach Amie Villarini said. “It’s just a matter of her believing that she could win and today she played with a lot of confidence.”
Moonjely was impressive on her way to her first regional title that earned the sophomore her first state tournament berth.
She won back-to-back 6-0, 6-0 matches to reach the finals where she avenged a regional semifinal loss to James-Lejarcegui last season.
“This year coming into I have gotten a lot more confident and comfortable with my game and I had a clear plan,” Moonjely said. “It was really awesome to play Bihotza again this time in the finals and play the way that I wanted to.”
With three wins on Tuesday Moonjely improved to 18-0 on the season.
Most of those wins came while playing number three singles as Emma and Audrey Koch manned the top two spots in the West High lineup.
With the Koch sisters teaming up to win a doubles title on Wednesday it was Moonjely who got a shot in the singles spotlight at districts.
She did not disappoint.
Moonjely dispatched of Cedar Rapids Jefferson junior Caroline Winter in the quarterfinals and downed third-seeded Ottumwa senior Katharina Polzin in the semifinals.
“I just have a lot more confidence in myself,” Moonjely said. “Last year I was kind of like ‘wow I’m here at districts’ this year I had a game play. I had to play my game style. I couldn’t try to change anything too much I just had to be confident in me as a player.”
James-Lejarcegui secured a second consecutive state tournament appearance with her runner-up finish.
The senior defeated Emily Bloomer of Burlington 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals and downed West High junior Vivian Mitchell 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals.
James-Lejarcegui finished seventh at the state meet last year.
“I think I ended up play really well here,” James said. “I started playing my game again. Even the championship match I felt like I played well, she played really great. It was a good matchup and she just had winners and good setups.”
The Koch sisters made it a regional sweep for West High, earning the doubles title with a 6-2, 6-1 win over the Cedar Rapids Jefferson team of Maddie Slagle and Emma Lassen in the title match.
Emma and Audrey Koch earned back-to-back 6-0, 6-0 wins over the Ottumwa team of Haley Grooms and Paige Blegen and the Muscatine duo of Acacia Brown and Sarah Jacobs to reach the finals.
“I was a little nervous just because this is a different atmosphere having way more people that usual meets,” Audrey Koch said. “It made me a little nervous knowing what was at stake but we played well."
Emma Koch will go for her second consecutive state doubles title after teaming with departed senior Abby Jans to win the 2A crown last year.
She has gone undefeated in her first season playing with her younger sister.
“I think we have gotten a lot better since the beginning of the season,” Emma Koch said. “I think we played our best today.”