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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 18, 2018

All-Fairfield state final

By Justin Webster | Jun 01, 2018
Photo by: JUSTIN WEBSTER/Ledger photo Gaskell, left, and Charoenkul, right, are the first duo in Fairfield history to compete for a state title in tennis.

After dominating the first two rounds of the girls’ Class 1A state singles tennis tournament at Byrnes Park in Waterloo on Wednesday, everyone had their sights set on an all-Fairfield final with just the semifinal round standing in the way.

“They both played well and there was no doubt in my mind that they would win two matches and move to the semifinals,” admitted Head Coach Heidi Grunwald, who added. “I think they both play so well and everyone has been predicting this, so, maybe I expected this.”

Charoenkul and Gaskell did as expected and the junior defeated the freshman 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

No. 1 seed, district champion Yana Gaskell faced Gretchen Jones of Clear Lake who left the court in tears with a 6-0, 6-0 loss and could be overheard saying this was, “the most embarassing loss” of her life.

“I don’t think she should be embarassed,” said the freshman Gaskell. “I’ve probably played way more tennis than her over the years. She was a good player and I could see her frustration, but I wasn’t going to let her back in, because that’d be the worst thing to do is feel bad for them and let them get back in and struggle to win the match instead of just finishing it.”

When asked if she was getting bored during the first three rounds where she won 36 of 37 games played, she clarified.

“Not bored, just determined to get it over with,” said Yana.

Defending state champion Anatta Charoenkul was also swift in her first two victories, winning 24 of 26 games played, but the junior took a little more time to defeat No. 2 seeded Brooke Jorgensen of Pella 6-3, 6-1 in her semifinal match. After losing the first game of the first set, Charoenkul won the next two games for a 2-1 lead en route to 3-2 and 4-3 advantages before closing out the opening frame with two wins for a 6-3 victory.

In set two, Anatta won the first three games before splitting during the third serve rotation on her way to a 6-1 decision.

Coach Grunwald wasn’t the only one who thought the two Trojans might end up in the championship.

“We kind of predicted this might happen and I’m really excited to play [Anatta],” said Gaskell after her teammate finished off her match.

As for the duos confidence in their chances, Charoenkul was apprehensive about getting too cocky.

“My confidence level is high, but not too high because she beat me in districts,” admitted the junior before the title tilt.

“My freshman year, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but now I’m confident I can get to the state tournament and then go from there.” She continued, “I’m really excited for an all-Fairfield final, whatever the outcome, I’ll be happy for both of us.”

As for senior teammate Cami Schaefer who made the trek 142 miles north with several others from Trojan Nation, “I’m rooting for Fairfield,” was her response when put on the spot to pick before the group from Jefferson County spread across Waterloo for lunch.

Activities director Jeff Courtright also added, “Usually you have another school for an opponent, so it’s easy to know who to root for but I think these ladies will give us an exciting match, last time they played at districts, it took three hours.”

Courtright added, “This is a great opportunity for two fantastic ladies from Fairfield to go compete for a state title. It’s great for our school, the girls and our tennis supporters.”

When asked what they would likely look for to fill the lunch hour with healthy options, Yana’s father Mark said she typically eats pretty light before a match and he felt it was good to have a bit longer than expected of a gap to help avoid cramps and/or injury.

The girls’ union administrator, Craig Ihnen, said about the Class 1A singles final featuring two Trojans, “We’ve had this before, but it’s a very special time for Fairfield because you’ve got two girls vying for a state championship and the loser is guaranteed runner-up.”

Once the match started, it followed several trends of the district final that ended with Yana defeating Anatta in three sets.

First, Anatta won a long back and forth first set that saw her hold leads of 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 before winning the decisive 10th game for a 6-4 victory that took approximately 45 minutes to play.

Yana won the first game of set two, and then the Trojans split the next two games after a long serve rotation that seemed to last forever.

With a 2-1 lead, Gaskell won two quick games to jump out to a 4-1 lead and it looked like we would be heading to a decisive third set for the title again.

During the next rotation, Charoenkul won both games to cut the deficit to 4-3 and then split with Gaskell in the sixth serve-swap to put Yana against the ropes as the defending champ needed just one game to claim her second straight state championship.

At that point, it was hot and everybody was sweaty and Gaskell fought to the end, but knew she was beat.

“I was really hoping for that third set because I thought I would have more endurance than her If I could get to that third set,” said Gaskell who continued, “But she has a good, strong head game and she was able to pull through and come back.”

The heat, which rose into the upper 80’s was something Yana thought would be to her advantage.

“I definitely thought the weather would help me but she played my strategy. My plan was to move her around but she was able to take advantage of me more than I was able to take advantage of her.”

 

Back-to-back champ

“I’m feeling great, relieved, happy and excited all at the same time,” said a smiling Charoenkul.

When asked which of her two titles is sweeter, she said, “To be honest, it felt very accomplished both years but my first year I was really, really pumped.” She continued, “This year I’m just as pumped, but more just happy that I won.

What led to her comeback in the second set?

“Physically I was getting pretty tired and that got to me a little bit mentally, but than I thought, ‘I need to be mentally strong and fight and I can try to win this. Yana’s been playing so well and I knew she was capable of winning the set, so I just focused on hitting my shots and just tried to stay in the point.”

 

Trojan tennis

Not only does Fairfield currently have the two-time defending state champion and current runner-up, but the team as a whole made it to the state tournament earlier in May.

Does that mean that Head Coach Heidi Grunwald is ready to lobby for a cruise or a trip to a warm beach somewhere?

“Absolutely,” said the sunburnt smiling skipper.

“Next year we will for sure have a target on our backs with all of the wins we had this year, but we also will be losing three varsity players so my No. 6 is going to turn into my No. 3,” the coach reminds.

“As long as some of the kids from junior varsity get out and play this summer, we may be able to get another conference win, we’ll see.”

 

Rest and relaxation

“I usually take a break, at least one week where I don’t play tennis and just let it sink in but then I do get some ice cream and have some cake,” shared Charoenkul while Gaskell wasn’t as excited for the next week. “I have to go to school,” said the sad-faced soon-to-be sophomore.

 

When asked if she would try to parlay her second state title into a later curfew or a car, the champ laughed and said, “All the support I get from my parents is enough for me so I’m just thankful that they’re here.”

Spoken like a true champion.

When asked if this would be expected next season, Gaskell replied, “I think that is the most likely outcome, yes.”

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