Comfort comes easy for good-time duo

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
MeKenzie Hilsmeyer, left, and Brooke Lueken slapped hands during their 6-1, 6-0 rout of Princeton in the No. 2 doubles match of Thursday’s Big Eight Conference matchup at the Ed Yarbrough Tennis Complex. The third-ranked Wildcats flattened the Tigers 5-0 as Lueken’s sister Maria also swiped a 6-0, 6-0 shutout at No. 2 singles. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

JASPER — MeKenzie Hilsmeyer neared the end of rehashing the saga of how she recently hurt her neck blow-drying her hair. Her doubles partner, Brooke Lueken, couldn’t help but emit a miniature snort hearing the story of the freak injury delineated once again.

This is pretty much par for the course. Both Hilsmeyer’s zany story, and Lueken’s inclination to laugh about a situation that others might be too polite to find funny.

That’s how Lueken and Hilsmeyer both operate. Finding humor where others don’t. Heavily sarcastic. And wildly successful to boot, as is standard with Jasper’s No. 2 doubles teams as the duo strolled to a 6-1, 6-0 victory Thursday when the third-ranked Wildcats whipped Princeton 5-0 at the Ed Yarbrough Tennis Complex.

When Jasper coach Scott Yarbrough says that personality is one of the chief determinants of how he assembles doubles teams, this is what he’s talking about.

“Chemistry for me is a high priority when it comes to doubles. High priority,” he said. “Whatever it takes, you’ve got to have two people that get along. And I think it’s more their humor as it is anything else.”

Added Hilsmeyer: “We get each other. We’re a lot alike, so we throw in a lot of random comments that makes it a lot of fun.”

The two-year veteran at the position is Lueken — or “Brooke The Awesome” as she likes to be called, in an innocent and unpretentious way. New to the party is Hilsmeyer, last year’s No. 3 singles player who never thought she liked doubles. She’d just never played doubles and didn’t know anything different.

“I thought singles I liked, being by myself and just being in my own head,” she said. “But I like having someone with me to help me out all the time.”

Yarbrough noted that, at times last year, Hilsmeyer labored with the concept of “being on an island” as the last drawn-out singles match to conclude with every eyeball is glued on the finish. Thursday, Anna Flick fought that phenomenon, trailing 5-3 in the second set before surging by Michelle Ortiz 6-3, 7-5 for the No. 3 singles point. Abby Rogers (6-2, 6-2) and Maria Lueken (6-0, 6-0) sailed through in singles at No. 1 and 2 respectively for the Cats (11-2, 4-0 Big Eight Conference).

Elizabeth Theil and Ashley Rogers, who steamrolled 6-0, 6-1, are occasionally the target of barbs from their compatriots in doubles. Knowing how hypercompetitive Theil is, “I try to get in her head sometimes,” Lueken fessed up. One mini-war was waged earlier this week in practice. Ashley Rogers was just named prom queen and Theil was voted homecoming queen earlier in the school year, so the doubles partners playfully dubbed themselves the “queens of the court.”

That is, until Hilsmeyer stomped on their glory with a deadpan comeback.

“And Brooke and I were like, ”˜We’re smarter,’” Hilsmeyer said. “And Ashley goes, ”˜But ... queens make more money.’ No, they don’t.

“We can be obnoxious to each other on purpose, because we know we can handle it.”
The good humor is perpetuated even as they hurt, as Lueken still wears a brace as she recovers from surgery to repair a torn meniscus and Hilsmeyer’s tender elbow is also enveloped in a black sleeve.

Then, there’s the infamous blow-drying incident.

Hilsmeyer receives regular massages that significantly loosen her muscles. After one of those sessions, she was too loosened up, made one tiny wrong move, and — bam — couldn’t move her neck.

Strangely, a stiff neck was the ticket to settling on a balance.

Initially this season, both Hilsmeyer and Lueken preferred to return serve from the backhand side in the left service box. When Hilsmeyer’s neck was too stiff to twist for the backhand wing, she gladly volunteered for the forehand side and nestled into an instant comfort zone.

“And then it just came to her, and so now I’m on backhand side, she’s on forehand,” Lueken said.
“It’s been good ever since,” Hilsmeyer added.

They’ve collected 11 wins against two losses, both coming to the state’s top two ranked teams, Carmel and Evansville Memorial. They were right with Carmel in a 7-6, 7-5 setback, and Yarbrough noted the Greyhounds have likely the state’s best No. 2 doubles team.

“Talentwise, I think they’re good enough to play with anybody,” Yarbrough said. “I think their personality’s a big part of that, I really do.”

Even when they try to button up their temperament, the liveliness is bound to spill out a little.

“Most of the time we’re serious, especially now that we’re getting toward the end of the season and tournament time is coming, so we’ve got to get more serious,” Lueken said. “We’re not (joking around) nearly as much as we did at the beginning of the season.”

Lueken’s straight face lasted only a moment, before Hilsmeyer concluded the thought.

“I can’t be serious for that long, though,” Hilsmeyer finished.

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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