Jeeps fall, but brothers' wins point to promise

By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

LOOGOOTEE — Cayden Knies exceeded his own expectations this season. Just a little bit.

C. Knies

The freshman who mostly occupied the No. 3 singles slot for the Northeast Dubois boys tennis team entered the year just wanting to finish with a break-even record.

Instead, he finished his first varsity season undefeated.

Cayden didn’t falter in any of his 15 singles matches, or in a No. 1 doubles match he won with his brother, Gage. He and Gage provided the two points for Northeast Dubois on Thursday evening at Loogotoee, but future success will have to wait as the host Lions upended the Jeeps 3-2 in the sectional championship.

“I had a pretty good year, didn’t lose a match,” Cayden said. “I was pretty happy with that. I came into every match with a gameplan and it ended up working.”

“That is great, I never would have thought he went undefeated, but it’s amazing,” Gage added. “I’m very proud of him. Now he just needs to build on that next year, always get better.”

Northeast Dubois (15-2) was vying for its first postseason title in school history. But with no seniors graduating from a team that suffered its only two losses against Loogootee (16-3), the feeling is the Jeeps are on the brink.

“I know the group of guys that we have — they don’t quit,” Gage said. “So I know they’re going to be just as hungry next year as I am and we’re just going to work our tails off until we get our goal.”

G. Knies

Loogootee also won the regular-season matchup by the same score, with a three-set tiebreaker at No. 2 singles as the deciding point. Gage reversed that decision Thursday, winning 6-4, 7-5 against Jesse Horney, and Cayden cruised 6-1, 6-3 as Loogootee’s Tyler Booker moved over from No. 1 doubles.

But a loss at No. 1 singles, which Northeast Dubois coach Tracy Gutgsell said “threw us for a loop,” also was a factor. Loogootee’s Conner Wittmer downed Tyler Haas 7-6 (8-6), 6-4. Haas entered the night 16-2 on the season.

Loogootee, which featured five seniors, also swept doubles, with Gabe Nolley and Waylon Matthews besting Tristan Linne and William Schepers 6-1, 6-2 at No. 1 and Hayden Bell and Will Nonte outlasting Ethan Kieffner and Patrick Betz 7-5, 2-6, 6-1.
The day wasn’t without redemption, however.

Gage picked off an opponent who he said “hit everything in” during the regular season. He trailed 5-4 in the second set before securing three of the final four games Thursday.

“That got me, it dug deep,” Gage said of the earlier loss. “I knew I had to be prepared today to come out and be ready to play.”

His brother, meanwhile, finished a season in which he could have played elsewhere, Gutgsell said. Cayden was the team’s most versatile player, having the potential to play No. 1 doubles but staying in singles after he told Gutgsell he’d have the mental strength to stay interested as he, at times, competed against players who may not be at his level.

“He came out and had some competition with Booker, but proved himself,” Gutgsell said. “As a freshman coming out and having the record, can’t say much more.”

Cayden sat out Wednesday’s semifinal victory against Paoli with a sore right foot as a precautionary measure, but said he felt fine during the entire match. Of the team’s roster, Cayden said “we had a deep team, most years we didn’t have that,” in explaining what gives the guys confidence moving into next season.

Different season. Same goal. The Jeeps will be ready, their coach said.

“We’ll see what next year brings,” Gutgsell said. “We’ll come back. We’ll have all our players, we’ll have all the numbers back and the talent back and we don’t lose anything, so we’re in good shape. We’ll just look ahead, that’s all we can do.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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