Wildcat duo gets out of doghouse, into a groove

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

JASPER — It’s far too abrasive to label Ben Seng and Aaron Nordhoff’s season a disappointment. They’ve won 17 of 22 matches this fall for a Jasper team that’s two victories from the state finals after Tuesday’s 5-0 ripping of Loogootee in the boys tennis regional semifinals at the Ed Yarbrough Tennis Complex.

B. Seng

But Seng and Nordhoff are the first to admit they feel a tad unfulfilled.

Last year, they accounted for Jasper’s lone victory in a 4-1 defeat to Center Grove in the first round of the state finals. They won 21 matches, the second-highest output on the team.

And when they were linked together at No. 2 doubles this season for a second straight year, Seng and Nordhoff expected wins to roll in as automatically as a stoplight turning green.

“I think that’s kind of what we expected this year,” Seng admitted.

“That’s what I was hoping,” Nordhoff added. “It didn’t exactly go that way early in the year.”

Seng and Nordhoff isolated one chief reason: the serve.

Both of them developed the yips on that crucial stroke. The first serve. The second serve. Inconsistency dogged each Wildcat on both.

That’s why at a few practices this season, Seng and Nordhoff grounded their groundstrokes and spent the bulk of their time devoted to serving. Seng went so far as to take extra lessons during the season from Ryan Miller, Jasper’s new teaching pro. Nordhoff has finally corrected a glitch where he was lunging his body too far forward, thereby depositing many serves into the net, while Seng has gradually fixed a ball toss that strayed every which way.

Nordhoff

“If we get our serves in,” Seng said, “we’ll be tough to beat.”

They were Tuesday, rumbling past Hayden Bell and Will Nonte 6-2, 6-0. Just like Nordhoff and Seng, Jasper No. 1 doubles pair Will Seger and Noah Moss grabbed the final three games of the match after a 35-minute drizzle-induced delay. Seger and Moss coasted 6-0, 6-0, as did No. 3 singles player Logan Mathies, who closed out the final Wildcat win of the night amid steadier showers. No. 1 player Eli Seng and No. 2 player Grant Weaver each dropped just one game to help the Cats dispose of the Lions (16-4) and reach today’s 5:30 p.m. championship against Vincennes Rivet (14-1).

No one has managed to ruffle Jasper (17-2) yet in the tournament, and for Ben Seng and Nordhoff, it’s allowed them to continue their gradual rebound.

Seng developed a wry smile when recalling the point of the season where he and his doubles partner were stationed squarely in coach Scott Yarbrough’s doghouse. After losing a one-set lead to Jeffersonville — a potential semistate opponent Saturday — at an invitational in August, Yarbrough sat down his 2 doubles team and frankly told them he expects better.

“He gave us a good talk. He wasn’t too happy with our play,” Seng said. “After last year and our match at state, we shouldn’t be having close matches with some teams we played early in the season.”

One of the biggest fixes Yarbrough wanted to see was a more spirited attitude. He conveyed that in different tones, and “sometimes I’ve been nice and sometimes I haven’t been so nice,” he said.

“You come up and say, ‘Hey look, if you don’t want to get this done, if you don’t want to make changes and you don’t want to be coachable, I can find somebody else that will,’” Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough opened the 2 doubles race and tried out three of his seniors at the position at points this season. But in the back of his mind, Yarbrough said, he kept coming back to Seng and Nordhoff.

“These two are the guys that give us our best opportunity at 2 doubles,” he said. “And when they’re playing well, they’re dang good.”

Bit by bit, they’ve located traction.

Seng and Nordhoff provided the clinching victory in a mid-September win at then-No. 9 Bloomington South in a straight-setter where “we got straight to business and took them out,” Nordhoff said.

Soon, the tournament trail will toughen for the Cats. And seeing as how Yarbrough said Nordhoff and Seng have begun to turn the corner in the last two weeks, reaching the tennis nirvana they reveled in at the end of last season remains within reach.

“They’re not far from where that spot is. It’s probably a point here or there, or a game or a particular series of points that’s been the difference in some of their matches. It’s not like they’ve played bad tennis,” Yarbrough said. “The potential of where they were last year and getting back to that point is something that I definitely (can see happening) and hope they get back to.”

In the individual doubles sectional also held at Jasper, Forest Park seniors Trent Weyer and Sam Beckman routed Washington’s Garrett Burton and Tyler Stoll 6-0, 6-3. Beckman and Weyer will continue in the individual tournament Saturday.

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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