Cats accept fourth in crusade for first

Chris Bergin/The Herald
Jasper’s Elizabeth Theil, left, and Ashley Rogers joined hands before starting Saturday’s match against Fort Wayne Dwenger’s Audrey Rang and Elizabeth Maxson in the individual doubles state finals at North Central High School in Indianapolis. The Wildcat juniors dropped both of their matches on the day, finishing fourth in the state to close the season with a 25-4 record.

From Herald Staff Reports

INDIANAPOLIS — Ashley Rogers and Elizabeth Theil couldn’t help but notice that a state championship doubles match was being played two courts away. And they weren’t a part of it.

The Jasper juniors landed in the consolation match of Saturday’s individual doubles state finals at North Central High School in Indianapolis, and it wasn’t the destination they had in mind — not after reaching the state championship match a year earlier and having designs of upgrading their runner-up finish from 2011 this time.

“It was kind of hard to focus,” Rogers said, “because I knew I didn’t want to be third or fourth, I wanted to be first.”

Rogers and Theil settled for fourth, finishing with a 7-5, 6-4 setback to Zionsville’s Autumn Fair and Kelly Mattingly after falling 6-2, 6-3 to Fort Wayne Dwenger’s Audrey Rang and Elizabeth Maxson in the semifinals. It marked the first time in Rogers and Theil’s two-year partnership at No. 1 doubles that they dropped back-to-back contests.

Both matches opened with promise and were more indicative of the way Rogers and Theil have assembled a 50-6 record over the last two seasons. Against Dwenger’s Maxson and Rang (23-1), Theil cracked four serves to open the match that Rang and Maxson never returned. Against Zionsville’s Fair and Mattingly (21-6), Rogers and Theil bounded to a 5-2 lead in the first set.

Then, the Wildcat duo encountered the snag that permeated both their matches Saturday: difficulty landing first serves coupled with a rash of double-faults.

“It wasn’t a good day to have a bad serving day. And with us (wanting to) serve and volley and be aggressive, that’s not something we can afford to do. ... It was a tough day,” Jasper coach Scott Yarbrough said. “If you play competetive tennis, which we do, and you play at a top level, which we do, and you play some of the best teams in the state, which we do, you’re going to have days like this.”

They enjoyed better days, and Yarbrough made a point to reiterate that to the two.

They were the only doubles team in the state to reach both the individual state finals and the team state finals, which were played a week earlier. There, Rogers and Theil kept their individual run alive with a three-set victory over Indianapolis Cathedral’s Carlene Eckhart and Caroline Combs. In chatting with other tennis coaches over the last two weeks, Yarbrough said that many felt Cathedral’s duo might have been the best doubles team in the state this year.

Rogers and Theil were also one of 10 doubles teams to earn first-team all-state honors, the second straight year they’ve accomplished the feat.

“There’s no reason not to be satisfied, because we got to state with our team, and for the second time we went individually,” Rogers said. “Even though we didn’t win, I’m still proud.”

Yarbrough said it’s too early to think about whether Rogers and Theil will be linked for a third straight year as seniors next season. Already, Theil is pondering the ways she can further polish her game. The chief upgrade she has in mind has everything to do with confidence — not getting down on herself for making mistakes and gaining the conviction to pull off more aggressive shots.

“We both know what we have to work on, and from today on, we’re going to work toward that goal,” Theil said.

For Rogers, the emphasis will be on health as she finally gets to rest a cranky right shoulder that could require offseason surgery. For Theil, meanwhile, there was no day off from being on court.

She remained up in Indianapolis on Sunday to start her summer tennis season, playing in a tournament where she played doubles with Ashley’s twin sister, Abby.

The way Saturday shook out, Theil took both memories and motivation.

“Unbelievable year going to state (as a team) and then individually. Many people would love to be in our footsteps, going back to state two years and going to team state,” Theil said. “I don’t think we could ask for much more. We just have to keep working, move forward, forget about the past and work toward next year already.”

In the championship, Highland’s Aby Madrigal and Vanessa Madrigal handled Maxson and Rang 6-1, 6-2. Penn senior Alexandra Brinker (24-1) claimed the individual singles state title by topping Fort Wayne Canterbury freshman Leah Barnes 6-4, 6-2.

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