Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Tennis, particularly doubles, has a certain choreography. West junior Emma Koch, who won a state doubles title a year ago with a senior (Abby Jans) who has since graduated, played this year with freshman sister Audrey.
“They communicate really well with each other; it’s kind of a dance on the court,” West coach Amie Villarini said. “They’ve just got to know their dance moves, know their steps. How to move and where to be.”
Clearly Emma was the stage manager for the duo at the state tennis tournament, calling out position changes and using her experience to guide the instantaneous decision-making on the court. Even Fred and Ginger would have appreciated the result: a Class 2A state doubles championship Thursday at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center.
“Emma did a really good job of just staying the big sister and keeping her sister up,” Villarini said. “Audrey’s a freshman, and she’s new to the limelight here at center court and all the attention and this atmosphere. Emma’s been here before, so Emma did a good job of keeping Audrey focused, calm and relaxed.”
In the championship match the Kochs defeated Anna Wanek and Kaylyn Chleborad of Dowling, 6-4, 6-1 after winning the semifinal over Caitlyn Hanulikova and Chloe Wilson of Ames, 6-0, 6-2.
The Kochs swept through the bracket without losing a set and finished the season 18-0.
“It’s really a one-of-a-kind feeling,” Emma Koch said. “Not very many people get an opportunity to win a state championship with their sister. We’re really lucky we got that chance.”
“It’s super cool to win as a freshman, but doing it with your sister is a whole other thing,” Audrey said.
“We hadn’t really played together at all before high school so we started feeling out what each other was good at,” Emma Koch said.
The Kochs dominated the Ames pair and then had to wait three hours to play the title match. The Dowling team started strong and was beating the Kochs at their own game, namely controlling the net.
“Part of (the slow start) was figuring out how they played,” Emma said.
“We’ve never played that style of two people up at the net,” Audrey said. “So we had to figure out how to play that, how to react to that.”
Villarini could see some hesitation from her duo as Wanek and Chleborad continually charged the net and put away volleys.
“I told them, ‘Look they’re beating you to the net. You can’t have that,’” Villarini said. “You’ve got to beat them to the net. So I told them, ‘They’re coming in; you’ve got to bring it.’
“A lot of it was just confidence. Audrey is a freshman, and she was getting a little tentative at times. I told them ‘You have to remind yourselves: You love the net. Love it.’ Then she came out and started making her volleys and making her shots.”
After surviving the first set, the Kochs looked much more aggressive in the second, attacking ground strokes instead of merely returning them and taking over at the net where their height, strength and athletic ability almost insures they will impose their will
“I think we realized we needed to be the ones that were playing two in,” Emma said. “We definitely did that more in the second set, and that helped us pull away.”
Teammate Jessica Moonjely finished eighth in the singles competition, falling to Krisha Keeran of Cedar Falls 6-0, 6-2 and to Beth Murman of Fort Dodge, 6-2, 6-1.
City High’s Bihotza James-Lejarcegul placed sixth after beating Keeran 7-6, 3-6, 1-0 before falling to Murman 6-1, 6-1.