Sara Loetscher will kill you with kindness.
Also, with her pristinely placed shots that are just out of reach.
Along with Pete Moldenhauer, the duo captured their third straight mixed 45 doubles championship at the Mississippi Valley Open on Friday night at the Dubuque Golf & Country Club, outlasting Dave Hash and Aimee Walsh in the final, 7-5, 6-1.
“She kills you with kindness, as an opponent or a partner,” said Moldenhauer, the director of tennis at the club and Dubuque Senior’s co-head coach this past spring. “You make the worst shot, she still compliments you and encourages you. She’s amazing. She’s one of the best partners I’ve ever had.”
Moldenhauer certainly has experience winning titles in mixed doubles, capturing three straight state championships with the Rams during his prep days in 1985, ‘86 and ‘87. Two of those titles came with Dave Hash’s sister, Lori, and that’s after the Hash siblings won together in 1984 as Senior won four straight mixed doubles crowns.
“It’s a privilege to play with Pete,” said Loetscher, who also won state gold in singles with Wahlert in 1980. “He’s such a gentleman with great skills. It’s nice to play with him because I can always count on him if I make a mistake. If I make a mistake, he’ll hold me up and I’m the same way for him. We just work well together.”
Moldenhauer and Loetscher earned a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Luke Less and Maureen Bortscheller in the semifinals for the right to try for the three-peat.
“Sara is Superwoman,” Moldenhauer said. “She never misses and knows the right shot to hit at the right time. She’s just incredible. She’s always positive and always smiling.”
For these players with local roots, it’s like playing family members after all these years. But that doesn’t mean they won’t get competitive.
“This is exciting, because it kind of feels like Groundhog’s Day,” said Bortscheller, the former Hempstead boys coach who’s still involved with the program. “We’re playing some of the same people this year as we did last year, and we very much look forward to this every year. This is family. We play each other to practice, and we all want to win. When the MVO comes, it’s game on.”
Hash and Walsh reached the final match with a 3-6, 6-0, 10-7 victory over Chad Fenwick and Mary Schumacher in the semifinals.
“It’s friends off the court and enemies on the court,” said Walsh, a four-time state medalist at Wahlert and co-coach of the Golden Eagles boys program. “We all want to win. We know each other all so well and play in our free time. It’s so nice to get out here and compete with these great people. And everyone wants to win.”
Fenwick — entering his seventh season leading the Loras College men’s and women’s tennis programs — and Schmuacher earned a 6-4, 6-4 win in the first round over Greg and Dawn Frommelt.
“It’s nice to be out amongst people again,” Fenwick said. “It’s just a fun atmosphere. With (tournament director and University of Dubuque head tennis coach) Dishon (Deering), even though we’re rivals at Loras and Dubuque, he always does a great job with this tournament and the whole group always does a wonderful job. To get out and compete after all the chaos and ups and downs of the last year and a half, it’s nice to be here again.”
The Duhawks recently landed six women and three men on the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Scholar-Athlete team, while both programs were tabbed All-Academic.
“That’s the thing I’m most proud of with our group,” Fenwick said. “At the Division III level, the hope is that these kids come out and get a career in something they enjoy and are prepared for. To see them all do so well in the classroom, that’s the truest example of a student-athlete.”
Mixed 45 doubles was the only action on Friday. All other brackets for the adults open today, with most finishing Sunday.