OTTUMWA — Rachel Hinebaugh hadn’t played high school tennis until this season. Before Thursday, she’d never played a singles match.
Ottumwa head girls tennis coach Emily Renner let her first-time junior player know exactly when that first singles match would be on Thursday. When Hinebaugh arrived at Dan Staggs Courts, Renner let her know her singles debut would taking place in a few moments.
“I asked coach if I was playing in singles or doubles,” Hinebaugh said. “She said ‘singles. Number six.’”
“I said okay and there I went.”
Hinebaugh fit right in with the rest of her teammates in her first singles match. The 6-3, 6-1 win for Hinebaugh over Madi Williams was part of a second-straight clean sweep of a conference foe as the Bulldogs sent the Scarlets home with a 7-0 win that saw Ottumwa leading in four other matches when play was called due to an incoming storm.
“This was another good day to bump some more junior varsity players up to the varsity level,” Renner said. “The girls are learning that, even if we’re playing less-experienced teams, we can all play at a very high level.”
Hinebaugh has quickly become acclimated to varsity tennis, having played in doubles action with Emily Songer for most of the season. A star already on the hardwood for the Bulldog basketball team, Hinebaugh talked about what drew her to hitting the hard court this spring.
“Competing on the varsity in my first year is just like what it was like in my freshman year in basketball,” Hinebaugh said. “I had no idea if I would be playing varsity at all this year. It’s definitely surprising to be playing varsity singles right away.”
On Thursday, Hinebaugh stood alone in a varsity match for the first time. The junior described the experience.
“I started out a little slow, but once I got going I had a lot of fun,” Hinebaugh said. “I hope a lot more girls come out for the sport. It’s really been a blast so far.”
“Rachel really played well once she figured out her singles style. It really seemed to suit her,” Renner added.
Much as they did during Tuesday’s 11-0 sweep over Des Moines Hoover, the Bulldogs’ top players kicked off a dominant night by nearly sweeping through singles action. Ottumwa’s top four singles players lost a total of just three games against East.
“This was another good win for us to bounce back as a team,” said Ally Schulz, who beat Scarlets’ No. 2 singles player Diana Inthaboune 6-0, 6-1, said. “We’re all very excited for a big week. We’ve got to stay focused and stay together as a team.”
Before lightning and rain could stop the match, Schulz teamed with Ashley Salgado to end a perfect night with a straight sets win over the East duo of Inthaboune and Ngoc Nguyen in a 6-0, 6-0 sweep. Schulz talked about playing with her No. 1 doubles teammate.
“Ashley and I really communicate well,” Schulz said. “Teamwork is the main thing for us. That’s the main thing to being successful in doubles play.”
Thursday’s win gives Ottumwa a winning Metro record and kicks off a three-day stretch of action for the Bulldog girls tennis squad. After playing a dual at West Des Moines Valley Friday, Ottumwa (6-2, 2-1) heads to Saturday’s Des Moines Lincoln Invitational.
“This is one of the busiest weeks I can remember for our team,” Schulz said. “That’s what we’ve practiced for. This is a good way to get us ready the stretch run of the season.”
After losing both of their matches last week, two-straight dual wins with 18 matches taken is a good way to bounce back for the Bulldogs.
“The next two days are going to really test us as a team,” Renner said. “It was nice to get these two wins to prepare us for what’s to come. Now, we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Ottumwa 7, Des Moines East 0
No. 1 — Ashley Salgado (Ottumwa) def. Sophie Backham (Des Moines East), 6-1, 6-0. No. 2 — Ally Schulz (O) def. Diana Inthaboune (DME), 6-1, 6-0. No. 3 — Kelsey Granneman (O) def. Erika Kommavongsa (DME). No. 4 — Katie Hicks (O) def. Ngoc Nguyen (DME), 6-0, 6-0. No. 5 — Jessi Black (O) def. Alisha Keointavong (DME), 6-1, 6-3. No. 6 — Rachel Hinebaugh def. Madi Williams (DME), 6-3, 6-1.
No. 1 — Salgado and Schulz (O) def. Inthaboune and Nguyen (DME), 6-0, 6-0.
Shortened Matches (Rain)
No. 2 — Black and Katie Wellman (O) def. Backham and Koeintavong (DME), 6-0, 2-0. No. 3 — Jill Ardueser and Jennifer Klodt (O) def. Jackie Khamma and Nguyen (DME), 6-1, 4-0. No. 4 — Katie Zingg and Chelsie Reed (O) def. Sammy Jones and Williams (DME), 4-1. No. 5 — McKenzie McCoy and Andi Helgerson (O) def. Kommavongsa and Mariel Bradford (DME), 5-2.
Ottumwa JV 1, Des Moines East 0
No. 1 — Molly Evans and Kaelee Fountain (O) def. Jessica Ramos and Prisma Raucho (DME), 6-0.