Jeeps well-served with plenty of backup plans

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Talia Terwiske, right, received congratulations from teammate Jenna Stemle after the No. 1 doubles pair won a point during their straight-set victory Monday in Dubois. With Terwiske and Stemle cruising 6-3, 6-0, the Jeeps upended Southridge 4-1. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

DUBOIS — Talia Terwiske hasn’t busted it out yet during a match. It could be unsheathed at any moment, though.

Call it her secret weapon, insomuch as a shot traveling the speed of a car at a drive-thru can possibly be. It’s not pretty. But when you’ve got a cranky shoulder that screams with nearly every service motion, the underhanded serve becomes a perfectly pragmatic Plan B.

It’s the tennis equivalent of basketball’s granny shot. The Northeast Dubois junior has resorted to it only in practice, but Terwiske’s face lights up when excitedly discussing her mastery of a shot that seems otherwise embarrassing.

“I’m really good at it!” Terwiske exclaimed of her underhand serve, citing the element of surprise. “I have won a few games off an underhand serve. (Opponents) didn’t know how to react to it. ... But hey, if I win the point, I’m OK with that.”

That’s one contingency plan for the Jeeps. There’s a more firm backup system in the works, too.

That comes in the form of four reserve players, who are a welcome crutch should the ragged Jeeps need a little aid. They didn’t need it Monday at Dubois, when they dropped Southridge 4-1 in their first dual match of the season. But with Terwiske feeling less than perfect and Michaela Stemle (meniscus tear), Andrea Smock (ankle surgery last year) and Jenna Stemle (back and hip) all contending with clingy injuries, the Jeeps (1-0) are embracing an influx of depth they haven’t enjoyed in years.

“I told them going into the Gibson Southern Tourney (last) weekend, ”˜We’re starting with seven (varsity players), but we’re not sure how many we’ll finish with,’” Jeep coach Tina Terwiske joked of her injury-bitten team. “But we’ve got some good, solid backup this year.”

The freshmen who joined Northeast Dubois (1-0) this year haven’t penetrated the varsity lineup just yet, but Tina Terwiske already sees their value since no Jeep is guaranteed an automatic varsity slot. It wasn’t the case last year, when the Jeeps carried the exact minimum of seven players for a varsity team.

For Talia Terwiske, as much as she’s hurting, she won’t be asking for a respite anytime soon. She’s been told she has a series of small tears in muscles in her shoulder and has been seeing a chiropractor — she’s been avoiding a regular physician because she knows she’ll be told she shouldn’t play tennis, “and I don’t want to do that,” she admitted, lowering her voice to a whisper.

Both Talia and mother Tina agree the mere presence of the reserves adds peace of mind. And to Talia, it just feels like more of a team with extra faces around.

“It’s a lot louder, too,” added Talia, not long before Jeep No. 3 singles player Lena Kleinhage gave a teammate a piggyback ride off the court after the JV player finished her match. “We can joke around with everybody, and start giggling. We just don’t shut up, ever.”

Dinged-up as they may be, the Jeep veterans are still pulling their weight.

Michaela Stemle held off Lynnette Whitsitt 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) at No. 1 singles, Kleinhage churned past Jocelyn Sermersheim 6-4, 6-2, and the Jeeps enjoyed a late-match crescendo in both doubles battles. Terwiske and Jenna Stemle rolled past Natalie Schneider and Cheyenne Layton 6-3, 6-0 at No. 1, and Smock and Jennifer Schepers pulled past Taylor Miles and Maddie Neu 6-4, 6-0 at No. 2.

The Raiders (2-1) cornered their only win at No. 2 singles, where Alexandra Herron stopped Kendra Schroering 7-6 (7-2), 6-2. Herron’s will impressed her coach, as Larry Kieffner also lauded Whitsitt for scrapping back from a 5-3 hole in the second set and leading 5-4 in the tiebreak before Stemle grabbed the last three points.

“That was one of the best early-season matches I’ve seen in a long time. That was a very well-played match,” Kieffner said. “And in No. 2, (Herron) just out-gutted her. She played harder. And (Schroering) was good too. It was very even for 1 and 2 singles.”

Kieffner is playing the numbers game, too, just a different version.

He’s filling five varsity vacancies this season from a horde of two dozen players who originally came out for the team. Not all the players stay, but Kieffner keeps anyone who’s willing to. He sticks to the no-cut policy for a reason. Kieffner cites players like Monica Crews, a player from about 15 years ago who started out as the last player in the program’s challenge ladder. She established just one goal: to play at least one varsity match. She did that and then some, clinching a No. 3 singles victory as a senior that tipped the Raiders to a conference title by one point.

“I didn’t want to get rid of a kid and miss a good one,” he said. “Sometimes you miss a good one if you don’t (give them a chance).”

There’s also an air of increased competition surrounding the Jeeps, now that they’re reinforced with more troops. In turn, Tina Terwiske has ensured her players have received the memo: stay sharp.
“With the doubles spots, nothing is safe at this point,” she said. “They all have to stay on their toes and they all have to to work to improve to keep their spots. (The competition) is good to see.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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