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PREP BOYS TENNIS

River Hawks dealing with bounty of tiebreakers in limited matches

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To make up for a handful matches lost by the abnormal spring weather, Mason City's boys tennis team has been playing in plenty of tiebreakers.

Plenty would be an understatement.

In the River Hawks eight matches this season, they have been in a grand total of 30 tiebreakers in any of the maximum three sets. They have had 18 third set tiebreakers, where the first to 10 (and win by two) takes the match.

"We've had a couple years like this," Mason City head coach Patrick Kruger said.

Kruger compared to the spring roughly nine years ago, where outdoor practices and matches came at a premium.

Still, the Class 2A No. 7 River Hawks have gotten their moneys worth on the court. They have been pushed to the brink in several matches and some, like Tuesday's against Ankeny Centennial, last for around three hours.

"We got to capitalize when we can earlier so we don't get there," sophomore Reed Kruger said. "If we keep winning them, I'm happy with that. If we lose them, we got to work on what we made mistakes on."

It has been a mixed bag of wins and losses in tiebreaks. None more so than two matches on the calendar spanning 11 days.

Against Ames in the second dual of the season on April 15, Mason City went 4-2 in first and second set tiebreakers. It then finished 2-2 in third set tiebreakers.

Under two weeks later versus Marshalltown, the River Hawks had seven of the eight tiebreakers happen in doubles and suffered a 1-6 record. They triumphed in the only tiebreaker in singles.

"It is tough, but that's why we play everyday," sophomore Justin Yarahmadi said.

That was a dual Mason City was up 4-2 after singles. The Bobcats swept the five doubles flights and proceeded to send their CIML-Iowa foe into a .500 record.

When Coach Kruger gets into coaching during tiebreakers, he's looking for two key components of his players attitude and focus heading into a potential win-or-lose scenario.

"I'm checking out what their mindset is like," he said. "Are they ready to go? Are they going to answer the bell? Are they drooping their shoulders? Are they active and into it? That tells me a lot about their makeup.

"Right now, I'm seeing a lot of good things. It is always next ball."

The River Hawks were up 4-2 heading into doubles against the Jaguars in a senior night match at Mason City High School. They took control, and of course won some tiebreakers, to triumph in the dual 8-3.

They have one dual left before the postseason starts on Monday in Cedar Falls.

"Just a mindset, do it everyday," Yarahmadi said. "Improve every year."

This version of Mason City is much younger than the 2021 group that vaulted into the top-10 of the 2A rankings, sent Reed Kruger to state in singles as a freshman, had its senior tandem of Caden Rodning and James Matthews qualify in doubles and get to the quarterfinals of the team state tournament.

Reed Kruger is fully entrenched in his spot at No. 1 singles. Yarahmadi is at No. 2 singles and those two pair up at No. 1 doubles. Only Lane Kruger and Zach Mulholland are seniors.

"Another year with teammates helps out a lot," Reed Kruger said. "If they hear us encourage each other and trying our hardest, then they'll look up to us."

Coach Kruger specifics depth has the major difference.

"I got guys that are playing JV that would normally play varsity," he noted. "We're winning a lot of matches at four, five and six singles. We're winning a lot of matches three, four, five doubles. That hasn't always been the case."

Mason City will be bunched up with Cedar Falls, another top-10 team in 2A, plus Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Dubuque Hempstead and Waterloo West for the district meet on Monday in Cedar Falls.

The goal remains the same: Qualify for the team state tournament and see what can happen for singles and doubles.

"No one is going to hand it to you, they got to know that first," Coach Kruger said. "You get to a district semi, district final, everybody is good. You're going to have to earn it. Somebody can knock you off the top of the mountain pretty quick."

Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Reach him via email at zachary.martin@globegazette.com and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.

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