Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2018

‘We’re all Fairfield'

Maharishi School defeats Fairfield High 7-2 in tennis matchup
By Justin Webster | Apr 17, 2018
Photo by: JUSTIN WEBSTER/Ledger photo Kai Vessey, left, plays the net while partner Devan Burke returns a volley from Fairfield’s top duo, Gannon Courtright and Logan Williams. The Pioneers won the matchup 10-2 and defeated the Trojan team 7-2.

This year there were a couple of twists to the first matchup of the season between the Fairfield High and Maharishi School’s tennis teams. First, the match was moved indoors to the MUM rec center from it’s scheduled location at the Fairfield middle school courts due to the recent frozen april showers.

Another difference this year for the Pioneers in all of their matchups, is that they have a combination boys/girls team due to MSAE’s inability to field a full team of six girls since they only had four go out for the spring sport.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the last two decades is that MSAE won the match with a 7-2 advantage, losing one singles match and one doubles pairing.

The state runner-up a year ago, Kai Vessey defeated FHS senior Gannon Courtright 10-1. Vessey’s doubles partner and No. 2 slotted Pioneer, Devan Burke, defeated Courtright’s tennis bestie Logan Williams 10-3 for a 2-0 lead. Daniel Zhu defeated his former MSAE middle school tennis team member Dante Cingire 10-1. Cingire went to FHS to focus on basketball, a sport no longer offered at MSAE, and only joined the Trojan tennis team a month ago, although he stepped right into the No. 3 slot with his wealth of tennis knowledge and experience as a youth player.

Jarod Willmon fell 10-2 to Bhavani Allison while the two best matches came in the No. 5 and No. 6 duels with both ending 10-8 and each school taking away a victory. First Karthik Vempati escaped with the two game victory over FHS’s A.J. Greiner. Then, in the match of the night, long time friends and first time opponents Olivia Goodale and Will Sheppard played an outstanding 18 game match with the Trojans winning 10-8.

“That’s my son so there’s some bias in that always,” said Fairfield Head Coach Bill Sheppard. “He and Olivia have known each other since they were in the three-year-old preschool together. So, their history is a long one given their age, but they’ve never played against each other before so this was kind of a fun outing for them. We didn’t know how it was going to go, they play a very similar game, so it was kind of interesting to see how they would matchup. I thought the difference was a little more consistency from Will than Olivia. That’s really what it came down to. They both have nice ground strokes, but Will pulled off a few more shots than Olivia did, from the backcourt.”

The Pioneer’s skipper agreed when observing the back-and-forth play.

“They were really even and I don’t think the score ever got more than one game apart. Olivia played on the girls’ team last year, but we currently don’t have one so we combined them. I thought it was a great match and they both came off of the court really happy with the way they played. Sometimes, neither player is happy such as the No. 1 matchup where my guy wasn’t happy because he didn’t feel he played well. It was a great match that FHS deserved to win. Will didn’t miss very many balls and I think he was a little better in the last two games, it was eight all and the final was 10-8.”



Vessey and Burke continued their dominance while defeating Courtright and Williams 10-2 in their first match together this season as Vessey continues to address a shoulder issue. Zhu and Vempati were pushed by Willmon and Cingire but prevailed 10-7 and FHS claimed it’s second victory when Sheppard improved to 2-0 on the day with a 6-2 triumph over Goodale and Allison with partner A.J. Greiner assisting in the win.


Trojan Head coach did see some positives during the loss Monday night.

“I liked the consistency shown by the players in their ground strokes,” said Sheppard. “I was happy with the serving, especially at the top two positions. I thought the doubles teams in general played the net well, and that’s critical to winning doubles matches.”


Was there a theme in the losses?

Sheppard: “It was generally consistency I felt. With Kai, it’s hard to be consistent because he hits so big. So Gannon [Courtright], my No. 1 player was up against a tough player there. In the other matches though, I really felt that MSAE just put more balls in play and that’s the way to play.”


Because you guys win a lot, you need some long touch matches like this, right?

Sheppard: “It’s excellent. Although, I don’t think they like it at the time, they can reflect and think, “It was good to be out there with such a strong team,” because MSAE has a long history of fielding very strong teams and this is no exception.

It’s really good for them. I’m glad for them that they got a chance to hit with these guys and we’ll see them again in less than two weeks. Hopefully we’ll take away something from these results and be able to apply it to the next meeting.”


Talk about the rivalry/friendship.

Sheppard: “I think it’s been about 20 years since we beat them. It’s a great relationship because these kids see each other all summer. Coach Briggs runs a tennis camp every summer and they see each other there and often times are playing together on a doubles team. There’s a lot of commrodary. Sure, everyone wants to win, but we’re one community and we’re all Fairfield.”


MSAE senior Kai Vessey agrees.

“It’s always fun playing them because I always see them, but I don’t really talk to them that much because they’re not in school. So, every year it’s kind of exciting to see them and play them again. We’re pretty good friends with all of them. I wish I was better friends with all of them, but it’s hard.”


“Everyone competed well,” said Coach Briggs. “There was some rust, for sure, but that’s not surprising for our first match.

I thought our top four positions did a solid job overall, but the good news is that we have plenty of room for improvement.”

MSAE will host Keokuk Thursday. Fairfield will travel to Fort Madison today.

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