IOWA CITY – Competing on one good leg and a lot of guts, Cedar Rapids Washington senior Katie Hammond simply willed herself into Friday's semifinals of the girls state tennis tournament at the University of Iowa Tennis and Recreation Complex.
With her left knee banged-up in a soccer collision from the night before, Hammond still gamely overcame two tough opponents on Thursday. The meet’s No.2 seed will now face an unseeded freshman from Johnston in the semifinals Friday at 10 a.m.
Of eight Metro players in action, Hammond is the only one who survived the first day of play.
Eliminated after two losses Thursday were fellow Washington singles competitor Lilly Hartman, the Kennedy doubles team of Sarah Lasecki and Lindsay Minder, and both Warrior doubles tandems of Olivia Brooks/Kristin King and Rina Moore/Lanie Sabin.
Hammond was a wounded Warrior after almost four hours on the indoor courts on a rainy day.
“My knee is very, very sore and swollen,” she said. “I’ll ice it down again, get some rest and hope I’ll be ready to go. I’m excited to play the girl I’ve got next.”
Her readiness to compete goes beyond her own quest for an individual state title. The full Washington squad opens play Saturday morning in Iowa City as one of four schools left for the state team championship.
"I'm sure she’ll play unless she’s in the hospital,” said Warrior Coach Dan Reyner. “You’d have to cut her leg off to keep her off the court. Katie’s a competitor to the bone.”
Hammond hurts knee playing soccer
Reyner is fully aware that her competitive spirit is the reason she’s a wounded Warrior for the back-to-back state tennis meets. Hammond was also a player on Washington’s soccer team, which was fighting for a state berth Wednesday night at Kingston Stadium in a regional semifinal against Cedar Falls.
Playing in her normal reckless abandon style, she hurt her knee in the first half and had to be helped off the field. On the bench with an ice pack the rest of the way, she nevertheless was about to go in again in overtime just as Cedar Falls scored for a 2-1 victory.
“We needed another forward,” Hammond explained Friday. “Coach kind of looked at me, and I got my sweats off and was all set to go back.”
Reyner said it’s the price a coach has to pay when an athlete is determined to compete at a high level in two sports at the same time.
“I’ve this love/hate relationship with soccer for four years now,” he saidThursday after watching his top player limp through two hard-fought matches. “I’ve always felt that playing both makes Katie better. Right now, I’m not so sure.”
Plays tennis while wearing thick brace
Hammond kept her bruised and swollen knee on ice Wednesday night, took physical therapy early Thursday and wore a patch before the match that contained a pain reducer. Playing with a thick brace, she struggled some against Katie Meyer of Dubuque Hempstead, whose deliberate style of play made for long back-and-forth rallies.
“She’s really good,” Hammond said following a challenging 6-0, 6-3 victory. “She doesn’t miss many shots, and she runs down everything. I just tried to control the game and stay in the center of the court so I didn’t have to move so much.”
Angie Allgood of Muscatine was just the opposite in the quarterfinals, a power hitter who moved her rocket shots from side to side against Hammond.
“She was a lot quicker and was always trying to get me to move around,” Hammond said. “And I don’t blame her. I would have done the same.
“If I knew I was going to have trouble getting to a shot, I just let it go. That’s hard for me to do. But my coaches said to save myself for the shots I could make.”
She said her knee hurt throughout and buckled at one point when she landed awkwardly, causing her to take a three-minute medical timeout.
"Katie was playing through pain"
Hammond took the first 7-6 with a 7-1 tiebreaker and had a little easier time in the 6-2 second set when Allgood seemed to wear down.
“Katie was playing through pain, for sure,” said Warrior assistant coach Karoline Rozeboom. “But there’s no way she’s going to give in. That’s not in her nature.”
Reyner called her a “master diagnostician.”
“She knows what she has to do to adjust her game, depending on who she’s playing,” he said at the end of the day. “She’s very consistent and has a lot of poise on the court.
“There are others who may have a better stroke or hit harder. But Katie has the whole package. And she played just outstanding today.”
How others fared
Reyner was disappointed that the other members of the team that posted a 19-0 record this season didn’t fare as well. The No.1 doubles duo of Brooks and King lost the opening match in three sets, but bounced back for a 6-1, 6-2 win in their second match.
“In the first one, it was awesome that we came and won the second set,” King said. “And we were ahead in the third set but just couldn’t pull it out.”
Brooks said she and her partner were much more comfortable and confident in their initial consolation bracket victory. “We were more motivated,” she said. “We knew if we lost we’d be going home.”
Lose they did in straight sets in their third match of the day.
“They’ve only lost four matches all year,” Reyner said. “And every time, they’ve beaten themselves. They didn’t play nearly as well today as they have all season.”
Washington’s other doubles team of Moore and Sabin dropped both of their matches, and No.2 singles player Lilly Hartman had the bad luck of drawing No.1 seed and defending champ Jessica King of Ames in her first match. As a freshman in her first state tournament, she was no match for the veteran senior.
Hartman lost to her next opponent in two sets after taking her to a tiebreaker in the opening set and was eliminated.
“I wish I would have done better,” Hartman said. “But I had a really tough first match. The second one was kind of frustrating because her style is just to keep hitting back and forth. But I didn’t play as well as I should have.”
Kennedy’s Lasecki and Minder, meanwhile, drew hard foes in both of their losing matches. They fell to the No.3 seed from Johnston to start with, then dropped their consolation match.
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