Cats extract pride from another state finals ride

Chet Strange/For The Herald
Jasper Noah Moss celebrated with Will Seger as the No. 1 doubles pair roared to a 6-2, 6-2 victory in Friday’s tennis state finals at Indianapolis. Seger and Moss accounted for the only Jasper win as the eighth-ranked Wildcats closed their season with a 4-1 setback to No. 2 Indianapolis Park Tudor. For more photos, click here.


From Herald Staff Reports

INDIANAPOLIS — The odds weren’t on Jasper’s side. At least on the day the Wildcats needed everything aligned just so.

Heading into Friday’s collision with the state’s second-ranked team in the quarterfinals of the boys tennis state finals, Jasper coach Scott Yarbrough contended that given 10 cracks at Indianapolis Park Tudor, the Wildcats could squeeze out a victory on two or three occasions. Friday’s result didn’t change Yarbrough’s stance that Jasper wasn’t far off the pace of one of the state’s most gilded programs. 

Park Tudor posted a 4-1 win, but Jasper’s No. 1 doubles team cruised to maintain its presence in the individual tournament, the Cats’ No. 2 doubles team challenged and the Wildcats were one point away from forcing the No. 3 singles match to a third set. For the second straight year, the Cats (19-3) saw their state finals charge snuffed out in the quarterfinal round. But they emerged with nothing to second-guess against Park Tudor, a tennis factory with seven state championships to its credit.

“I really felt like our opportunity this year was better than it was last year. It’s not a bad loss. If you’re going to lose, you want to lose to one of the better teams in the state, and that happened. That’s part of it,” said Yarbrough, who said the Cats posted a better showing against Park Tudor than in one of their two other defeats, a loss to Center Grove last month.

“I thought our boys played hard. The one thing that upset me in the Center Grove match was I thought we laid down a little bit, and I didn’t think we did that today. The one thing that’s really difficult to do when you get up to play the Indy schools, is you’ve got to be able to compete with them at the singles level. And I felt we competed with them. We didn’t beat them, but I thought our level was there.”

And it shined, in a big-time way, at No. 1 doubles.

Noah Moss and Will Seger (25-2) kept their individual run flickering with a 6-2, 6-2 dismissal of Graham Reinbold and Jack McCarter, and the Wildcat seniors will embark on a return trip to the state capital next weekend for the individual state finals.

Yarbrough marveled at the straight-set clinic, calling it “vintage Jasper doubles.” Moss and Seger had their serve broken just once. Their service returns were near flawless and they dictated net play, to the point where Reinbold and McCarter eventually both played back at the baseline — in essence, a doubles surrender.

The Cats’ coach added that Park Tudor’s No. 1 doubles team wasn’t a throwaway point. He described it as “probably as consistent and solid a two sets against a good team as I’ve seen all year.”

Moss confirmed it.

“That was definitely one of the best me and Will have ever played,” he said. “We just kept playing our game, and we played really well today. I thought (it was) definitely one of our best matches.”

Unfortunately for the Cats, there was no dislodging Park Tudor’s three regal singles players.

Dan Rayl, Scott Thygesen and Pete Dakich have combined for a 69-7 mark this fall, and all registered straight-set victories Friday. Rayl knocked off Eli Seng 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1, and Thygesen downed Weaver 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2. At No. 3, freshman Logan Mathies stretched Dakich — the nephew of sportscaster and former basketball coach Dan Dakich — deep into the second set after dropping the first.

Mathies assumed a 5-4 edge and had two set points, but Dakich was able to close out a 6-2, 7-5 win to send Park Tudor (18-2) into today’s semifinal against No. 4 Indianapolis North Central (20-1). Even so, Yarbrough assured that Mathies “has nothing to hang his head about” in hanging with Dakich, the Panthers’ No. 2 singles player from a year ago.

The Cats went down swinging nearly everywhere else.

Yarbrough said Seng couldn’t dictate points the way he wanted, but lauded the junior for “playing some of the best tennis he’s ever played” this postseason and being the team’s most improved player from a year ago. One court over, Weaver struggled to win the big points but extended most games to deuce in a match that lasted nearly an hour and 45 minutes. And Yarbrough said No. 2 doubles pair Ben Seng and Aaron Nordhoff “played very well both times in the state finals,” accepting a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 loss Friday following a brief surge after they trailed 3-0 in the second set.

Yarbrough also extracted pride from Jasper’s fan showing as the Cats’ contingent outnumbered that of Park Tudor, which had a jaunt of just a few miles to the finals venue. About 15 past boys players and a few former female players also popped in on the match as the Wildcat alumni gathered to support a team that Yarbrough said deserves to be in the discussion as one of the best the Cats have ever produced.

“I think this is probably one of the top four of five teams we’ve ever put together,” Yarbrough said. “The depth is so good and the experience in doubles is so good, that I think the doubles alone could play with just about any of the doubles we’ve ever put out. And that’s saying a lot for Jasper doubles.”

Enriching those doubles duos were the team’s three seniors: Seger, Moss and Nordhoff, a trio with 10 seasons of varsity experience to its credit. Moss couldn’t help but feel lucky to find himself squarely in a golden era of sorts in Wildcat tennis: Three state finals appearances in the span of a year, with the boys bookending last spring’s trip by the girls.

“Doing this two years in a row has been really nice,” Moss said. “I don’t think anything like this has ever happened — when the guys won and girls won and the guys went back to state again. It’s going to be nice when I can tell my kids, ‘Yeah, I was part of that.’ It’s definitely nice to be part of this.”

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