Another trophy, another talking point for Cats

Photos By Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper No. 2 singles player Maria Lueken, center, bumped fists with teammate Elisabeth Ahlbrand while walking off the court with Emma Yarbrough in Thursday’s girls tennis sectional final at the Ed Yarbrough Tennis Complex. Lueken soared to a 6-0, 6-0 victory and Jasper needed just an hour to secure a 5-0 sweep and the program’s 24th straight sectional crown. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

JASPER — Upstairs in the Jasper tennis fieldhouse rest some conversation pieces. A couple dozen, in fact.

A few more are added to the collection each year, just as one was Thursday after third-ranked Jasper decked Forest Park 5-0 in the championship of the girls tennis sectional at the Ed Yarbrough Tennis Complex. The Wildcats’ haul of trophies goes directly upstairs, where past sectional hardware is displayed on shelves.

Abby Rogers

The 2013 trophy hasn’t found a permanent home just yet; it’s temporarily being stored atop a filing cabinet next to a bottle of old sunscreen, a few Styrofoam cups and a roll of gray tape. Room needs to be carved out on the shelves, since real estate is at a premium. With 24 straight sectional crowns won by the girls team to join wins in 22 of the last 23 years by the boys program, the shelved trophies have to be bunched together diagonally and are crammed together like houses in a big-city neighborhood.

“We talk about them, just about the history a little bit, just so the kids know that — I don’t want to say this is what’s expected — but maybe this is what you’re looking forward to if you put in the time and get after it, these are things you can accomplish,” Jasper coach Scott Yarbrough said of the trophy haul.

Many of the trophies won by the girls team are accompanied by a photo that’s become a tradition: The senior players always gather at the courts on prom day to take a photo on the courts in their prom dresses. The goal is to customize the rest of them, as Yarbrough wants to find a team photo to mount on each trophy so each sectional champion group can be commemorated.

As of now, there’s only room for sectional trophies from the mid-1990s and on; Yarbrough said the older ones are stored in the high school. Last year he had to order more shelving to accommodate the expanding passel of trophies. Even when the new high school gym is finished, complete with its scores of new trophy cases, the tennis trophies will stay in the fieldhouse, Yarbrough assured.
The way the Cats operated Thursday, better make more room.

Against the Rangers (12-3), who were unbeaten until late in the season, Jasper (17-2) surrendered a mere eight games in five wins. Freshman Maria Lueken, whose winners likely numbered in the dozens by Yarbrough’s count, powered to a 6-0, 6-0 sweep. Crackling serves allowed both Jasper doubles squads, Ashley Rogers and Elizabeth Theil, and Brooke Lueken and MeKenzie Hilsmeyer, to dictate points. And it was a little power, a little finesse, Abby Rogers took care of an opponent the Cats knew they had to take seriously.

Forest Park’s Kereston Hochgesang delivered a backhand return during the second straight sectional championship appearance for the Rangers. Hochgesang and No. 1 doubles partner Jordan Buechler will return next season for Forest Park, as will singles players Amie Weyer and Maddison Beckman.

Forest Park No. 1 singles player Amie Weyer stretched Hilsmeyer to three sets when the two played in the sectional last season, and Yarbrough called Weyer “a nice player.” Thursday, Weyer battled Rogers in the last match to finish.

Tempted to let frustration seep forth as she was the last to join the postmatch party, Rogers had to stop herself.

“A lot of times if I get frustrated, I just think this is my last time that I get to do this, so I might as well just make it count,” said the senior, who still prevailed 6-1, 6-2 in a touch less than an hour.
“It’s really frustrating whenever you’re the last one on the court. That’s happened to me these past few matches. I get frustrated with myself, but I’m like, ”˜This is my last time, you know what, I just need to enjoy it.’”

Forest Park coach Emily Opell commended Weyer for extending games against Rogers, adding that Maddison Beckman similarly hung tough in a 6-2, 6-1 defeat to Anna Flick at No. 3 singles.
In most cases, Opell said, her players couldn’t have done much more against a juggernaut that’s won 11 of its 17 matches this season via 5-0 sweeps.

Beckman

“That’s what I told her and what I told all of them: You have so much to be proud of. The scores don’t reflect how well you played out here. Some of them played better than I’d ever seen them play this season,” Opell said. “And, (there are) so many other matches we won that we’re proud of.

It’s not a happy way to end, but when you think back in retrospect, there’s a lot that we’ve done this year that we’re happy with.”

Even with four new varsity players in the lineup this spring, the Rangers matched last year’s win total. They came one win shy of the Pocket Athletic Conference title, falling 3-2 to a Gibson Southern team that romped to a sectional title Thursday with a 5-0 sweep.

That’s the Rangers’ plight: Elsewhere, they could be sectional contenders. As it is, unfortunate geography near Jasper ends their season early.

And when the Cats operate like they did Thursday, they’re practically untouchable. Yarbrough said his team was businesslike and more relaxed Thursday than in Wednesday’s opener against Pike Central. He also doled out the flattery that may be the ultimate compliment for any tennis team: “It was really clean tonight” with winners far outnumbers errors.

More efforts like that could net Jasper what it really wants. No trophies are handed out for winning regional or semistate, but the Cats would love nothing more to adorn their latest sectional championship trophy with the regional and semistate placards that are awarded for winning those stages of the tournament.

“Those are the ones you want,” Yarbrough said. “You want the ones that get you into that state finals.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.

Fresh face in regional
In Tuesday’s regional semifinals at Jasper, the host Wildcats will face the winner of the Vincennes Lincoln sectional. The other semifinal will pit Northeast Dubois against Bloomfield or Linton. The Jeeps, who will be making their first regional appearance in 24 years, are the last program to defeat Jasper in sectional play. They edged the Cats in the 1989 sectional before Jasper embarked on its run of sectional titles that now stands at 24 straight.




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