Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

Maharishi claims district title

By Justin Webster | May 10, 2018
Photo by: Photo submitted by Steve Briggs The district champion Maharishi School Pioneers are, from left, front row, Karthik Vempati and David Zhang; standing: Daniel Zhu, Devan Burke, Kai Vessey, Head Coach Steve Briggs and Bhavani Allison.

1st Maharishi School 28

2nd Fort Madison 15

3rd Mount Pleasant 13

4th Fairfield 10


Maharishi School hosted the district tennis meet at their outdoor courts Wednesday with Fairfield joining Centerville, Davis County, Fort Madison, Keokuk, Mt. Pleasant and West Burlington-Notre Dame in the single-elimination singles and doubles touraments for a berth in substate later this month. Each of the eight schools must divide their six varsity players into two singles entries and two doubles entries giving each bracket 16 competitors.

Once a player starts district play as a singles or doubles player, that is their destiny and it became the focal point of the day’s play.

MSAE not only threw a kink in everyone’s plans when they entered the top two singles players in the district together as a doubles pair, but four of the six players had an impending road trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Rocketry Competition that began immediately following the meet. Any inclement weather could have delayed an already tight schedule for the Pioneers.

“I was relieved to see how focused all of our players were today given the distraction of the impending trip,” said Head Coach Steve Briggs. “It was a long day, but it was also the Pioneers best day of the season. Our players dominated the tournament.”

As for the Pioneers’ strategy, “We definitely have some enemies today,” joked senior Kai Vessey.

“Everyone planned for me playing singles and they put all of their players in doubles and that didn’t really work out for them.”

Why did MSAE shift their focus to doubles?

“The basis of the thought was that it’s been a few years since our school won a state championship title,” added Vessey. “Last year, I was runner-up and third and fifth the two years before that, plus my freshman year we got second in team state, so we kind of wanted to win something and get something satisfying before our team graduates four of our six varsity players.

So, the idea was our competition in doubles would be really strong, but it’s more winnable than the singles where I’d probably get runner-up again. Maybe I could win it, but it’d be a lower percent chance.”

“I think it was really smart on their part,” admitted Fairfield Head Coach Bill Sheppard. “What it did was it opened up the singles, because probably the best two players in the district [Kai Vessey and Devan Burke] were in the doubles competition. That was nice because it gave a lot of other players a crack at the singles title, and it definitely changed the dynamic of both the singles and the doubles competition.”

It seems great Fairfield minds think alike.

“We basically had the same idea,” shared Sheppard. “I put my top four players into doubles and it turned out that the doubles competition was much stronger than the singles. I’m still happy. We won all four of our first round matches, two singles and two doubles, but we couldn’t get past the second round. I hope the kids came away with a good day of tennis and had fun. Everybody would have liked to do better, but that’s the way tennis is. That’s the way sports is. I encouraged my players to face their fears and take a full swing and play aggressive like the wolf and not like the sheep.”


Maharishi School won the team competition as well as the singles and doubles tournaments, qualifying Daniel Zhu, Kai Vessey, and Devan Burke for the upcoming state tournament in Waterloo.

Karthik Vempati and David Zhang barely missed out on a trip to state after upsetting the No. 3 seeded West Burlington team in their opening match.

Sophomore Bhavani Allison earned the Pioneers first two points of the tournament with a singles victory over Keokuk.

“Every player on the team contributed to the victory and that makes it so much sweeter,” added Briggs. “Karthik and David have been struggling in doubles for a couple of weeks, but they flipped the switch today by playing aggressive, all-court tennis. They showed a lot of resilience out there.”

As mentioned, Daniel Zhu added to his already impressive tennis resume when he won the singles tournament.

“We’re really proud of Daniel,” shared Briggs. “He’s now a three-time district champion thanks to his patient, focused play that got him to the finish line.” added Briggs.

Kai Vessey and Devan Burke lost just a total of six games in the tournament, defeating the Thurman twins from Fort Madison 6-1, 6-0 in the finals.

“I love districts,” said Vessey with a smile. “Even though I say, “We haven’t made friends,” it’s all in good fun. Teams made their strategy in hopes of doing better and even if it didn’t turn out that way, it’s all fun.

Although the Pioneers shifted their focus to rockets and their roadtrip, they still have work to do to accomplish their goals.

“We’re practicing as much as possible to get ready for this,” said Vessey. “This is our last year as the Pioneers as we know it, really, because we’re graduating basically five of the six.

We have a big junior varsity team this year, but they have a lot to learn. Of course, we’re teaching the JV everything we can, while we can and while also preparing for state.”

Vessey takes a different approach to tennis, something Fairfield skipper Bill Sheppard said gives him a huge advantage over most players within 100 miles.

“When I’m playing a match, I have a whole different mentality. I play point-by-point and shot-by-shot. I do not even think about thinking about the next match or state at all. Tomorrow does not exist. The next point does not exist. I’m thinking what is the score and then just play the shot, play the point. If you get caught up in everything else you play tense and it doesn’t work.”

Not only did it work for the Pioneers on Wednesday, but tomorrow does exist for Vessey and his teammates who advanced with Fort Madison to the substate meet May 19.

The Trojans had their season ended with their fourth place finish.

“It’s been a successful year,” said Sheppard. “We’ve had a winning season, we played some great matches and some that weren’t so great.

Overall, I feel badly that our seniors didn’t get to make it to state this year, but they did their best and just came up a little short.”

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