Cats' quick work curbs proud Jeeps

Photos By Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s  MeKenzie Hilsmeyer, left, Abby Rogers, Ashley Rogers, Elizabeth Theil and Brooke Lueken relaxed after securing Wednesday’s regional title with a 4-1 win over Northeast Dubois. While the Jeeps concluded a season in which they won the program’s seventh sectional title, the third-ranked Wildcats gear up for Saturday’s single-match semistate at home against No. 6 Floyd Central or Jeffersonville. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

JASPER — Fast and furious they arrived, like a service ace that skips off the court and pelts the fence unobstructed.

Jasper’s wins arrived in a tidy bundle, not long after Wednesday’s girls tennis regional championship kicked off at 5:30.

6:15 p.m. — Maria Lueken is off the court.

6:18 — Elizabeth Theil and Ashley Rogers follow.

6:24 — Brooke Lueken and MeKenzie Hilsmeyer are through.

6:27 — Abby Rogers applies the finishing touch to her victory.

Sometimes, it might seem, the chief competition that Jasper encounters is seeing who can wrap up a win the quickest. But the third-ranked Wildcats, who are one win away from a repeat visit to the state finals after stopping Northeast Dubois 4-1 in Wednesday’s regional championship, insist that’s never their attitude during matches in which they’re favored.

“I just think that we have to go out there and keep it clean, just do what we do best and not really worry about how long it takes,” Theil said.

Added Hilsmeyer: “We’ve got experience. We can trust ourselves.”

Jasper coach Scott Yarbrough noted that Jasper (19-2) never tries to exude an air of supremacy since opposition can rise up and surprise, just like it did Wednesday, when Northeast Dubois’ Lena Kleinhage knocked off Anna Flick 6-2, 6-3 at No. 3 singles.

Yarbrough’s orders seem to parallel the iconic line from famed basketball coach John Wooden. Be quick, but don’t hurry.

“We try to go out and play clean tennis, we try to be sportsmanlike. And in my opinion as a coach, if you should beat somebody in 45 minutes, then you should beat them in 45 minutes. Why take an hour and a half to do that?” Yarbrough said. “That’s where we try to talk about playing clean, (reducing) unforced errors and not being all clunky and all that. It was a good night. I was happy.”

Abby Rogers topped Michaela Stemle 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles, Theil and Ashley Rogers reigned by the same score at No. 1 doubles, Maria Lueken sailed 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 singles, and Hilsmeyer and Brooke Lueken overcame Andrea Smock and Jennifer Schepers 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles.

The program’s 12th regional title, simple as that. The Cats will return to the Ed Yarbrough Tennis Complex for Saturday’s single-match semistate at 10 a.m. against the winner of the rained-out regional final between No. 6 Floyd Central and Jeffersonville.

Northeast Dubois senior Michaela Stemle dipped low to retrieve a backhand in the No. 1 singles match, which Jasper’s Abby Rogers won 6-2, 6-1.

In Jasper’s wake sat the Jeeps (15-2), who couldn’t be crushed about how their run ceased.
Jenna Stemle and Talia Terwiske were still all smiles upon exiting the court, even as the No. 1 doubles pair sustained its first loss of the season together in 18 matches. And Kleinhage finished the day the way she started — “smiling ear to ear,” Jeep coach Tina Terwiske said.

Kleinhage was so relaxed before the match, she was the one Tina Terwiske was worried about.

Turned out, her naivete about the prospect of facing Jasper was ideal.

“Maybe we’ve all got something to learn from that,” surmised Terwiske, who spread praise to a team that will lose just Michaela Stemle and Kleinhage next season.

“I’m proud of every one of them. They all played well, and we haven’t seen this kind of pace, this kind of spin all year. Honestly they probably played some of the best tennis because it was the best competition that they’ve seen this year. They all played well. Not one of them should be hanging their heads over this one, because they represented Dubois with pride and everything they had. There wasn’t one of them that let me down.”

The Jeep coach then took a look around and realized she didn’t need to assume the cheerleader role for her players. They lingered well after Jasper’s trophy presentation — occasionally chasing one another and trying to fling ice at one another — while savoring their last match together.

Schroering

“We all improved as a team and got real close. That’s what I’ll remember,” Jeep No. 2 singles player Kendra Schroering said. “We definitely surpassed (expectations). I was hoping we’d win sectional, and getting to regional was definitely exciting.”

The match was somewhat of a throwback to the Jeeps’ glory years in the 1980s, when they were the ones who presided over the sectional field most years. The Luekens’ mother, Sherril (Heldman), was the No. 1 singles player on the Northeast Dubois squad that reached the 1983 state final four.

Sherril still hits occasionally with the girls and every Thursday morning with Yarbrough’s wife, Heather (Himsel), who played for the 1989 Jasper team — the last Wildcat squad to be foiled in the sectional.

After that, Scott’s late father, Ed, took charge of the tennis program again after stepping away for a few seasons to coach boys basketball. The rebirth followed.

“That’s where it kind of changed again. He got them back into what I would call the Jasper way of tennis: putting in time and getting girls committed and dedicated,” Scott said.

The byproduct is the current crop of Wildcats, who’ve been itching for Saturday’s semistate showdown. How much so?

“For me, I’m more excited for Saturday than Friday for graduation,” Theil admitted, with a sheepish smile.

“It’s not that we overlook sectional and regional,” Ashley Rogers added, “but we’ve had our eye on (semistate) all week.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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