A deeper look into the boys' tennis seasonSeptember 10, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
Serena Williams falling short in her bid for history may be the big tennis news nationally, but there are just as many storylines to follow in the local tennis scene in southern Indiana. There's everything from new coaches to freshmen learning curves and even a triumphant triumvirate of seniors in this week’s boys tennis notebook.
Jeeps seniors anchor the courts
Life on the tennis court has been kind to the Northeast Dubois Jeeps, as they boast seven wins in 10 matches so far this season.
Head coach Dwayne Knies credits the team’s trio of seniors with not only being his best players, but also serving as a consistent group that can go out and get matches for the Jeeps against any of the teams on their schedule.
“All three seniors played varsity for four years, which is unusual,” Knies noted.
Senior Reece Bauer holds down the No. 1 singles spot, and remains unbeaten on the season so far.
Knies called Bauer one of the best singles players in the county, and said he’s blessed with the physical gifts and skills that allow him versatile play on the court. But, the coach thinks his greatest attribute might come from within: his competitiveness.
“He’s a competitor. A lot of times he finds a way to win,” the coach said. “He’s put some time into tennis, and he’s got some really good skill. You throw in his athleticism, and he’s really tough to handle. When he’s in a tight match, he can usually buckle down and pull out a win.”
Ethan Zielger and Luke Harder are the team’s other two seniors, and they’re enjoying their reunion at No. 1 doubles this season to the tune of a 7-1 record. Ziegler and Harder have played together since they were freshmen, but they took a brief hiatus when Ziegler was moved into the No. 2 singles slot last season.
They haven’t missed a beat since rejoining, and their only loss came from a withdrawal in their last match against Loogootee after Harder sprained his ankle. He sat out one match, but should be back in the fold this week.
“Ethan is a really good singles player. He and Luke make a really good doubles team,” Knies said. “We felt like those two needed to play together, and we knew they would give us a really strong doubles team. They know how each other thinks out on the court.”
Knies is excited for the next few matches, as the Jeeps will face Linton-Stockton and Tecumseh this week ahead of their appearance in the Jasper Eight Team this weekend.
Rangers’ Jarboe nursing elbow injury
Forest Park’s tennis coach Dean Blessinger was frank about the Rangers’ 2-3 start to their season. He hasn’t seen the boys collectively improve their serves to the degree he would like, but one player he has seen go above and beyond in that area is No. 1 singles player junior Nathan Jarboe.
“Big server,” Blessinger emphasized repeatedly. “He’s got legit 110, 115 [speed], maybe even reaching 120. He cracks it really hard. His forehand is really big too. Decent backhand, but he hits so big with the serve and his forehand that he doesn’t have to be that good with the backhand.”
Jarboe started out blazing his way to a 5-0 record before being hit with an episode of tendinitis in his right elbow. He’s been dealing with the injury for about two weeks, and has been playing JV matches left-handed as a part of his rehab.
Blessinger thought about putting him in at No. 2 singles left-handed, a testament to both how athletic Jarboe is, as well as the lack of depth in the Rangers’ lineup. But with no structural damage in the elbow, he played Monday night at No. 1 doubles against Tecumseh, and will try to give it a go at No. 1 singles today against Southridge.
“He’s been cleared by his doctors,” Blessinger said. “He’s going to have to decide how much pain he could play with. It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up.”
Forest Park freshmen feeling the fire
The Rangers have a lot of youth along their lineup with three freshmen logging a lot of match time this season.
Landon Marks has played time at No. 2 singles, No. 1 doubles and even did spot duty at the top singles spot because of Jarboe’s injury.
Marks has taken his lumps against more experienced players, but Blessinger likes the way he has competed, and thinks he sees a bright future for him in tennis.
“He’s learning through trial and error, and we’re throwing him into the fire,” he said. “But I look forward to big things out of him.”
Eli Cox at No. 3 singles and Bryson Partenheimer at No. 2 doubles have also been dealing with their version of the varsity blues. Blessinger said their biggest struggles are setting up their points, but it’s an area that can only improve with some experience and the knocks they endure along the way.
First-year coach is learning the ropes to the court
Heritage Hills has a new head coach in the form of Phil Burden, who took over after former coach Brian Oxley decided to step away from the program.
Burden isn’t a stranger to coaching, and has experience working with the basketball and track teams. But tennis was a new challenge he stepped into when Heritage Hills athletic director Jay Burch approached him for the job.
“Learning the strategy and technique has been all new for me,” Burden said. “Been doing a lot of research, but the coaching aspect is just like any other sport.”
So far, Burden has seen the team to a 4-3 overall record, but he believes the Pats are strong everywhere on the court, and he’s not anticipating any kind of drop off as they work their way toward the postseason tournament.
“Our goal is to not take any steps back, keep pushing the program forward,” Burden said. “We’re taking the next few weeks to find out our best lineup and put our best foot forward going into sectional."
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