CEDAR RAPIDS - The first bit of bad luck seemed nothing more than a speed bump for Ryan Shomo in his road to a state championship.
Though following a daunting draw, a second and more challenging bad break proved to be a roadblock on the senior's course toward the title.
After claiming a 6-4 first-set victory over second-seeded Alex Huang of Ames, Shomo's stellar play stuttered after cramping in both his legs and feet robbed the Bobcat of his shifty speed and early momentum in a quarterfinal loss at the Class 2A Boys State Tennis Tournament at Veterans Memorial Complex Friday.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Marshalltown’s Ryan Shomo tracks down a ball in first round action of the Iowa Boys High School State Tennis Tournament in Cedar Rapids Friday. Shomo fought through cramps to finish 2-1 on the day and advance to Saturday’s consolation semifinals.
Huang, who trailed 2-0 in the second set following a between-the-legs winner from Shomo, altered his gameplan accordingly and came away with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory to halt the Marshalltown senior's pursuit for the top.
"The cramps were killer," MHS coach James Christensen said. "(Ryan) had his entire foot balled up and couldn't extend his toes out. Both calves were also cramping up at one point. ... His game is based on movement and having to basically run on the side of your foot because you don't have any toes is tough."
Taking a 10-minute injury break between dropping the third and fourth games, Shomo soldiered on and later tied the set at 3 all, though was unable to reach the same level he had harnessed just minutes before allowing Huang to pull away.
"The first set I could never get comfortable," said Huang, who finished fourth in state singles a year ago and defeated Shomo 6-1, 6-2 in their previous meeting last season.
"He hit a lot of slice and loopy balls. I got some opportunities, but blew them all and he played some really good defense."
Once Shomo's speed and power were hindered, Huang switched from pressing for winners to contently extending points.
"That really changed the dynamic of the match," Huang said of Shomo's cramping. "Now I didn't necessarily need to win the points, I knew I could outlast him. ... I started counterpunching and not trying to force points. That led to him being a lot more rushed to win the point."
While the change in play from the cramping was obvious, Shomo refused to use it as a crutch.
"It's incredibly frustrating," said Shomo, who started to feel his legs tightening late in the first set.
"You're trying to run down a ball and instead of thinking about the shot you're about to hit, you're trying to make your legs get to the ball. ... It's frustrating, but (Huang) played great so I don't want to take anything away from him."
Christensen couldn't take anything away from Shomo's spirited effort either, as the Bobcat senior summoned his best play for the final stage of his prep career before his legs refused to cooperate.
"Before (the cramping), that was the best tennis he's played," said Christensen, who still saw some pretty special tennis from his senior afterward.
Following an hour-long break and some much-needed electrolyte replenishment, Shomo willed his way past Johnston's AJ Naanep 6-2, 6-4 in a consolation quarterfinal.
Playing right into Shomo's hands, Naanep was intent on quickly ending points and ran into numerous unforced errors as the Bobcat cruised through the first set. Naanep put up more of a fight in the second set jumping to a 4-1 lead before Shomo rallied to win the next five games.
"I was just looking to save as much of my legs as I could for tomorrow," said Shomo, who can climb as high as fifth in the final standings Saturday.
"I just wanted to stay in the points long enough for (Naanep) to have the opportunity to miss."
Shomo and Christensen felt the Bobcat lefty missed out on a deserved top four seed in the bracket and was dealt a tough first round test, though the pair quickly changed their mindset after the tough news.
"We were disappointed," Christensen said.
"We felt Ryan had played well enough this year to deserve the 3 or the 4 seed. The coaches decided to go another way, but we've got to play all the guys anyway."
Linn-Mar's Brady Anderson earned the top seed, while Pleasant Valley's Charlie Humes and Iowa City West's David Dileo were seeded third and fourth respectively. Shomo was paired against hard-hitting freshman Jackson Guilford of Indianola, who like Naanep, had a propensity to go for winners more frequently.
Rarely allowing Guilford to unwind his freewheeling forehand, Shomo cruised in straight sets 6-1, 6-3.
"Ryan kept the ball low and moved (Guilford) around," Christensen said.
"We just didn't want to hit into his wheelhouse. Ryan allowed Guilford to make some mistakes and kept the ball away from where he wanted it."
Shomo (15-3), who has already sealed a spot in the top eight, faces Andrew Ellis of Ames in the consolation semifinals today starting at 9:30 a.m. The winner advances to the consolation final to face either Linn-Mar's Tim Paulson or Guilford for fifth place overall.
Ellis defeated Shomo earlier this season 6-0, 6-4. ... The top four seeds advanced through to today's semifinal matches starting at 10 a.m. as Anderson faces Dileo, while Huang will battle Humes. Reflecting on the day, Christensen was pleased overall with Shomo's performance, even though his match with Huang may sting for awhile.
"It's a successful day. I couldn't be more proud of Ryan gutting out the second victory. ... We'll always wonder if those cramps had stayed away - that's going to stick in Ryan's mind for a long time, but overall taking a set against (Huang) is a great performance nonetheless. ... We'd love to be in the semis but being able to be a top eight finisher is a pretty good accomplishment for Ryan."