Burning the Midnight Oil at Dan Staggs Tournament

Aug. 1—OTTUMWA — As Logan Storto made his way back across the court during a third set changeover, friend and Ottumwa High School tennis teammate Dominick Rath had a request.

“Wrap it up, Logan,” Rath said with a smile. “I’m tired. I want to go to bed.”

Storto laughed it off.

“Let them suffer,” was the response of the two-time Dan Staggs Tournament champion.

Storto will have to work the late shift to capture his second title this week and third overall championship in the fifth edition of the Ottumwa summertime tennis tournament. After sweeping Clayton Ferguson 6-1 and 6-1 in the first full round of the men’s division tournament, Storto had to fight back from a set behind against Kyle Nicholson in the last of seven quarterfinal matches that were put on Jon Kneen Courts and the last of the 17 championship matches held on the third night of the tournament.

“This match was exhausting,” Storto said of his quarterfinal win. “He (Nicholson) runs you around. You just have to outlast him.

“This is the first time I’ve played a match after midnight. I’m going straight home. I’m going to rest up and be ready for tomorrow.”

Storto will face another Bulldog teammate, Toby Schmidt, in another match that won’t start until late in the evening. Schmidt, who swept past Moses Merrill (6-2, 6-2) and Josh Shoemaker (6-0, 6-2), won’t be able to play until after 9 p.m. due to work obligations.

“I’m just happy to get to this point,” said Storto, the 18-and-under champion of this year’s Staggs Tournament. “I’ll be ready whenever we get that match started.”

Storto wasn’t the only player to walk off the court exhausted after the busiest day yet in Dan Staggs Tournament. Leanna White, Ottumwa’s head girls tennis coach, needed some time to catch her breath after a grueling 6-2, 6-1 win in the women’s semifinals over Greta Rath in a match that featured numerous games that required numerous points to decide.

“You almost have to think like you’re coaching yourself sometimes,” White said. “I tell the girls all the time to think positively all the time. You have to try and keep those negative thoughts out of your head when your on the court. Instead of thinking about why did you hit a shot out, you have to think about how you can improve on the next shot.”

Rath gave an incredible single-night effort of her own on Monday, playing over four hours and five sets of tennis. Before facing White, Rath had the bounce back from a 7-4 loss in an opening-set tiebreaker against Alejandra Guerrero winning 6-7, 6-3 and 6-1 in the longest match of the 17 played on Monday.

“There wasn’t a match between the matches. That’s probably the most tennis I’ve played in a single night,” Rath said. “Alejandra became a wall on the other side of the net. I had to come up with some good shots to beat her.

“I’m pretty sore right now. My left calf is cramping up and my right knee is hurting, but I don’t give up. I just keep playing.”

Greta Rath wasn’t the only member of her family to be challenged physically on the court on Monday. While battling Alejandra Guerrero in a women’s first-round match, Greta’s son Dominick was battling Shoemaker in a first-round men’s match and a nagging hamstring pull that has been bothering the soon-to-be Ottumwa High School junior since this past spring’s Bulldog tennis season.

“It was fine during warm-ups, but after my first service game, just landing on the same leg tightened it up right away,” Dominick Rath said. “When it was 4-3 in the first set, my hip popped on one my serves. That’s the first time I’ve had to deal with that. Both my hamstrings have been bothering me.”

Despite the injuries that left Rath in visable pain at times, the match would be played to completion. Shoemaker was able to edge Rath 6-4 in both sets.

“I played a pretty good game,” Shoemaker said. “I tried not to focus on what’s going on with the other guy. I try to stay focused on what I can do.”

Joining Schmidt and Storto in the men’s semifinals will be Trey Hull, who advanced with sweeps of Austen Merrill (6-2, 6-0) and Jarrett Wellings (6-1, 6-2) on Monday night. Trey Hull will either face his twin brother, Quintin, who advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Chris Storto, or Davis County head boys tennis coach Tucker Henderson who swept Zach Shoemaker 6-1 and 6-0.

Tennis is growing in Ottumwa,” Quintin Hull said. “Trey and I have been giving lessons to younger players, mostly middle schoolers. I think it’s really important. It gets people to love the game. If you love the game, you’ll continue to play it and continue to work on improving. Those people can also pass that love on to other people. The love of tennis just keeps growing.”

The women’s championship match will be a battle of Ottumwa girls tennis coaches. Angie Allgood, White’s assistant coach, spoiled the return to the court of 2020 Dan Staggs 18-and-under championship Monse Guerrero with a 6-1, 6-2 sweep as Guerrero played her first match in three years having dedicated herself to cross-country running both at Indian Hills Community College and the University of Saint Mary’s in Kansas.

“Nothing was quite going my way. It was completely different from three years ago,” Monse Guerrero said. “It was kind of a last-minute decision to play in it. I decided to try it and I had fun. I really missed tennis. The adrenaline is a lot different compared to running. I don’t think it will be the last time I pick up a racket.”

Consolation matches in the men’s tournament will be played throughout Tuesday at Jon Kneen Courts. Championship matches resume with the women’s final between White and Allgood and the last men’s quarterfinal match between Quintin Hull and Tucker Henderson at 5 p.m.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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