Cats push sectional streak to 16September 30, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER - Sectional hardware went to Jasper for the 16th year in a row on Thursday after a 5-0 sweep of county rival Southridge.
The Wildcats (16-2) didn't have a lot of varsity returners going into the season, nor did they have their doubles combinations figured out until later in the year, but they stood tall to best the Raiders (13-9) as Sectional 17 champions.
"We're extremely happy about the sectional win," Jasper coach Scott Yarbrough said. "We do not take them for granted. We don't take teams for granted, and I thought we were pretty clean tonight. I like to see clean tennis, which basically means we're just not throwing points away to be throwing points away. And I thought tonight was pretty good - I thought our focus stayed on the match well."
Jasper senior Max Sternberg enjoyed a clean sweep of fellow senior Max Rasche in the No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-0. Yarbrough said junior No. 3 singles Reece Lampert's shoulder is still lingering, but he came away with a 6-2, 6-0 win against fellow junior Luke Ramsey of the Raiders.
Lampert missed the Sept. 21 win against Vincennes Lincoln, though he returned to action Sept. 24 in the Center Grove Classic.
"He's starting to hit the ball a little cleaner now that we've got him hitting more often - because we really gave him about a week off," Yarbrough said. "We almost just didn't have him hit to rest that shoulder. And it's kind of a day-by-day thing. It's not to the point where he can't play, the question is how painful it is when he is playing."
Despite the sweep, Southridge junior Mick Uebelhor made sure to give senior Justin Shultz a match. Shultz prevailed, 6-0, in the first set, but things changed in the second set when the junior held leads of 1-0 and 2-1. Shultz had Uebelhor at a 4-3 lead, then finished it off at 6-3.
"I kind of was a little sluggish, needed to find a rhythm and eventually found that rhythm and got myself back in it," Shultz said.
"He's so athletic, and he gets to every ball and he frustrates the guys," Raiders coach Paul Kinker said of Uebelhor. "He can get any shot, and the most difficult shot, even the better for Mick. He showed up and he played extremely well against Shultz."
The Raiders ended their season on Thursday, but last year's lineup saw the graduation of everybody except Rasche, and they still found their way to produce a winning record, including an 8-4 record in the Pocket Athletic Conference.
"They are upperclassmen - a lot of juniors and seniors," Kinker said. "So, they have been playing at least three years in our system. So, it was time for them to step up - and they did. We had a couple guys go out for quarantine, but when they came back - the second half, we played much better. We had a six-game winning streak, so that's great for us."
The Wildcats do not yet know whom they will be playing Tuesday at home in the regional, but they know it will be whoever comes out of Loogootee in Sectional 18.
"There's not a whole lot we're going to teach them over the next three days that we haven't talked about all season, but we're probably just going to emphasize a few things - getting first serves in, focusing hard on returns, making sure we're not just giving free points back to the other team, keeping our focus on the match, not losing that," Yarbrough said. "And then hitting a lot of balls.
"We'll try to lay off the serving a little bit, trying to rest the shoulders and then we'll play a little bit, too," he continued. We'll get some competitive juices flowing and get some points played - probably on Saturday morning, maybe on Monday and then the match is on Tuesday."
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