Early Nerves No Problem As Koch Sisters Roll Into Semifinals in State Doubles Bracket


Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – Audrey Koch certainly isn’t the only player faced with some nervous moments in their first trip to the state tennis tournament.

Unlike many other state tournament newcomers Koch had a couple of familiar factors to fall back on at the opening day of the Class 2A state tournament on Wednesday.

Koch made her state meet debut at her tennis home away from home, the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center in Iowa City with her older sister and practice partner on the court beside her.

Between the home court advantage and some advice from older sister and state tournament veteran Emma Koch the nerves didn’t last long for the West High freshman.

“It definitely helps a lot having it be at the HTRC because I know so many people here and I have played on these courts so many times,” Audrey Koch said. “I have played here so many times with Emma which is really helpful. It kind of made it feel like any other day playing.”

Early nerves or not it looked like just another day for the West High’s top-seeded doubles team.

Emma and Audrey Koch improved to 16-0 on the season and advanced to the state semifinals with a pair of straight set wins on Wednesday.

“I was nervous this morning, it was a different atmosphere than any other meet, even than districts but it was a cool environment,” Audrey Koch said. “Emma just told me to relax and play our game. She is really good at calming me down when I start to get nervous before the match.”

The Koch sisters showed few early jitters in a 6-2, 6-1 opening-round win over Alyssa Lewton and Alli Gustafson of Ankeny Centennial.

The sister duo advanced to the state semifinals with a 6-0, 6-4 win over the Dubuque Hempstead squad of Joyce Sun and Erin Connolly in the quarterfinals.

“At the beginning we were playing really well, we were playing really aggressive I think we got too aggressive for a little bit and that’s why they came back,” Emma Koch said. “The beginning was really good tennis and I think we are definitely playing our best tennis right now.”  

The Koch sisters will face the Ames duo of Caitlyn Hanulikova and Chloe Wilson in the semifinals on Thursday at 10 a.m.

A state doubles champion a year ago as a sophomore, Emma Koch knows the level a team needs to be playing at to win on the final day of the state tournament.

Emma Koch believes the West High duo was approaching that level on Wednesday.

“We are close to that kind of championship level of play,” Emma Koch said. “I think as long as we stay aggressive and play our tennis that we will be good.”

The duo was dominant through the first three sets and led early in the second set against Sun and Connolly before the Hempstead squad rallied.

Leading 5-4 the Koch tandem calmly put the match away with a couple of resounding points at the net.

“I thought we served really well and Emma played really strong at the net today,” Audrey Koch said. “The serve really sets up the net player and that is definitely an important factor in our game with Emma’s height.”

West High sophomore Jessica Moonjely won her singles opener 6-3, 6-0 over Dubuque Senior’s Natalie Kaiser but fell to third-seeded Cari Naanep of Johnston 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals in her state meet debut.

Moonjely responded with a straight set win over Anya Postnikov of Cedar Rapids Prairie in the consolation match.

City High senior Bihotza James-Lejarcegui won a pair of matches on Wednesday as she attempts to improve on her seventh-place finish from a season ago.

James-Lejarcegui defeated Kiersten Housenga of Clinton 6-2, 6-2 in the opening round and fell to top-seeded Davi Patterson of Boone 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinals.

She bounced back with a 6-0, 6-2 consolation win over Kaiser.