CLINTON — Championship matches on the tennis courts are nothing new for Clinton and Camanche, and the two eastern Iowa powerhouses are hoping to add to their collections of hardware this week at the Iowa girls tennis state tournaments.
Three River Queens — seniors Griffin Rasche, Jordan Nelson and Gabby Haan — will take part in the individual tournament Thursday and Friday in Ames, then the whole team gets together Saturday to defend the Class 2A team state championship it won a year ago.
“We’re very excited for state,” Clinton sophomore Samantha Brisch said. “There’s a little pressure, but we know we can do it.”
Brisch is one of five returning starters in Clinton’s lineup from the team that ended Ames’ four-year title reign with a 5-4 win in last year’s semifinals and then beat Urbandale by the same score in the final.
The River Queens and Urbandale will square off in a rematch in Saturday morning’s semifinals at Iowa State’s Forker Tennis Courts, with the winner facing either top seed Cedar Rapids Washington or Des Moines Roosevelt in the afternoon finals.
Senior Shannon Shovlain and freshman Riley Hubbart round out the Clinton lineup. All but Hubbart played in last year’s team finals, and coach Cindy Rasche said one of the keys to the team’s success was the depth provided by the players at the top of the lineup and those who didn’t qualify for the individual tournament.
“Those people enable the people down the line to win their matches and take care of business,” she said.
Griffin Rasche said another key was getting along together.
“We are a team that’s very versatile,” she said. “We all like to play with one another.”
Rasche will represent Clinton in singles competition in the individual tournament, while Haan and Nelson will compete in doubles. Rasche finished eighth in singles last year, and Nelson and Haan competed in doubles at state last spring.