Success of seniors starts at home

Olivia Corya/The Herald
Will Seger, left, and Noah Moss have racked up a 24-2 record in their first year together at No. 1 doubles, though the Wildcat seniors were already well acquainted with each other before this season. Moss and Seger are nextdoor neighbors who grew up across the street from the Ed Yarbrough Tennis Complex, where No. 8 Jasper (18-2) will face No. 15 Floyd Central (14-7) in Saturday’s single-match semistate at 10 a.m.


By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

In Tuesday’s regional tennis semifinals, Noah Moss watched a ball get popped over his head. He could only turn and watch it dive toward the back of the court. But Will Seger intervened. Sprinting from near the net on his side of the court to the far corner, Seger nonchalantly assured Moss “I got it” during a dead sprint to flag down the ball in a point the duo eventually won.

The teamwork has been a familiar refrain.

About 10 years ago, Seger regularly showed up at Moss’ house wanting to go out and play. Moss would be toiling away on workbook assignments, and when his mom left the room, Seger assisted his buddy with the answers so playtime could commence.

Far before Seger and Moss fused as a No. 1 doubles team this year, they had a built-in connection. They’re nextdoor neighbors. They’ve been through fake fights, real fights, hundreds of walks together from the school bus stop, and perhaps even more pickup games in the neighborhood. Before Saturday’s semistate, when No. 8 Jasper (18-2) collides with Floyd Central (14-7) at 10 a.m. at the Ed Yarbrough Tennis Complex — practically within shouting distance of Moss’ and Seger’s houses — the two plan to eat breakfast together with a few other teammates, which is the usual routine on most Fridays.

They’ve lived side by side for 17 years, so they’ve known each other basically since before either can remember. It’s no surprise their doubles partnership instantly took on the same unity.

“We’ve been pretty good friends our whole lives, so it hasn’t been (a worry) about chemistry or anything like that coming into the year,” Seger sad. “Memories between me and Noah go pretty far back. ... It’s been a lot of fun.”

There were neighborhood football games, with Seger’s dad, Scott, as the full-time quarterback. There were basketball games, though with Moss and Seger admitting they’re not hoops naturals, “it was kind of like a big pillow fight out there,” Seger joked. And for no other reason than to spruce up the walk from the school bus stop to their houses, the two used to pretend to fight — a miniature WWE scene complete with faux punching, fake kicks to the face and falling down — causing passing motorists to honk, stop or do a double-take. And when the onlookers took a second glance, Seger and Moss would act totally normal, like nothing had happened.

The seniors are more refined these days, and it’s reflected in their tennis.

Moss and Seger are 24-2 this season, which includes an 18-match win streak to open the season and 6-0, 6-0 shutouts in their last three tournament matches. By now, coach Scott Yarbrough has come to expect the wins. What he wants even more out of Moss and Seger is the spirit they’re not bashful about emitting. A crushing overhead, slick volley or big point by Moss will regularly prompt a howl of “Get up, Moss!” from Seger that ripples through the tennis complex.

“The thing I’ve asked them to do is set the tone,” Yarbrough said. “They’re more of the rah-rah, scream and yell and get into it and jump around a little bit, and they’re the guys I like to see get out and get going quick and get us a little energy flowing and make a little noise, be a little loud, get things rolling a little bit.”

The two were also responsible for taking a position that was a question mark and turning it into perhaps the most reliable of the team’s five positions.

Seger inhabited No. 1 doubles the past two seasons with Riess Watson. But when Watson and his father, Warren, the former teaching pro at Jasper, moved with the family to Florida over the summer, Seger lost his doubles partner. And Moss lost his best friend in Riess and his “second dad” in Warren.

Moss claimed paternity with Warren Watson because he never leaves his tennis racket idling, which is where he and Seger differ.

Seger, an Indiana University recruit for golf, is a tennis player for two months per year as his golf itinerary keeps him hopping around the country to play in marquee events, including this summer’s U.S. Junior Amateur in New Hampshire. Moss, who plays no other sports, is a tennis player six or sometimes seven times per week, with private lessons and hitting sessions with teammates consuming his time.

But when the tennis specialist and the tennis moonlighter gave doubles a whirl, it was instantly clear the partnership was organic. In the first tennis practice of the preseason, Seger and Moss joined to play doubles for the first time ever — and they beat Eli Seng and Grant Weaver, the team’s No. 1 and 2 singles players, respectively.
“It was pretty instantaneous,” Moss said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I love playing with Will.’ He goes straight to net, takes everything away,” Moss said, before Seger volleyed back the compliment and praised his partner’s consistency.

“And I’ve got a guy back there that’s  just ripping balls, one after another going in and in and in,” Seger said.

Seger’s gravitation to golf meant a slight gulf with his tennis-crazy neighbor as the two got older and funneled their focus to different sports. But this season’s fellowship on the court has reinforced Moss and Seger’s friendship away from it. Scott Seger can tell, because Moss is a regular presence at the Seger house, and vice versa.
“Now,” Scott said, “they’re together all the time.”

And when you’re winning with the volume and simplicity as Moss and Seger usually do, then why split?

“Noah’s pretty exciting to play with, and we both like having fun. And mostly, we like winning,” Seger said. “I don’t think there’s a match this year where we haven’t had a good time.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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