Lineup change does not lead to win for Wildcats

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com 

JASPER — Bennett Schmitt has found himself on someone’s tennis court for as long as he can remember. He first picked up a racquet in elementary school and is in his third year playing high school tennis for the Jasper Wildcats. Schmitt has been all over the court playing in a singles slot as a freshman before becoming one half of the one doubles team as a sophomore. He found himself back at one doubles to start the season, but Jasper coach Scott Yarbrough decided to make another change after the Jeffersonville Invite.

Schmitt

Schmitt was moved back to a singles spot Tuesday evening in the Wildcats 3-2 loss to visiting Evansville Reitz.

“Him and Mitch (Kluemper) seemed a bit stale,” he said. “Bennett is pretty quiet, Mitch is a little more fiery and that seemed to jive pretty well last year. This year it didn’t seem to catch. We took a walk around the track at Jeffersonville after their last match, and I said ‘We need to change some things up.’”

The Wildcats coach said that he was thinking about moving Schmitt back to singles, and to his surprise Schmitt embraced the suggestion. So he switched over to the No. 2 singles spot where he has been playing for the last couple of weeks, and he admits its been a bit rocky but he’s working on it. Part of the transition process involves Schmitt retooling his strategic approach to matches.

The rules were real simple when he played doubles: overpower the point quickly and force the opposing duo to match the Wildcats’ intensity. But with going back to singles Schmitt is relearning how to play and win extended points rather than just looking to blow up everything his opponent hits his way.

“You have to have more of a strategy going,” he said. “In doubles you just try to put the ball away as soon as you can. In singles you have to think about it more, be more patient and wait for the right opportunity to hit more balls. You can’t rush points or you’ll end up missing too soon.”

There was some evidence of that in his Tuesday night match against Reitz’s William Hemp.

Schmitt wanted to work on being more consistent in keeping the balls in play, but there were times where he looked rushed as he approached the ball which led to sometimes errant shots around the court. He played better as the match went on and fought hard before falling to Hemp (6-1, 7-5), but he felt encouraged by his play which he feels is getting better with every court appearance.

“It keeps improving over the last few weeks,” he said. “It’s still a work in progress.”

Yarbrough thinks that Schmitt’s main issue is, funny as it sounds, being too smart for his own good. He compliments Schmitt on being a very intelligent tennis player, but sometimes his mind gets cluttered as he works to figure out his opponent during a match. While Yarbrough certainly doesn’t want Schmitt to leave his brain at the fence, he has been working with him on ways to keep the game simple so that he can play more freely instead of getting bogged down with problem solving in the heat of the moment.

“I’m trying to get him to think the game a little bit more and not over think it at the same time,” he said. “Bennett is someone who has always been able to problem solve because he is highly intelligent. I think he tries to figure that out on the court, and he can’t get past that just yet. Given sometime I think that’s something we could do”

That being said Yarbrough sang his praises when he talked about how he saw Schmitt make some progress against Hemp Tuesday night. He thought Schmitt did a better job of winning points and improved how he handles deuce-point situations.

“I thought Bennett took a step forward tonight, lost a tough first set, he got beat 6-1 but I think every game went to deuce (points), and then he got up by four in the second and had some chances to win the set, so I thought he made a step forward tonight against a pretty good singles player.”

As for the rest of the team, Yarbrough said he was not surprised by Reitz’s 3-2 win. The Wildcats doubles teams won their matches, but he knew that the Panthers’ strengths rested in their singles lineups. He felt that a couple of his guys could have been a bit more active, but he thought the match was a great information gathering outing since the Wildcats played a team that they hadn’t seen in quite some time.

The road ahead doesn’t get much easier for the Wildcats as they look towards matches against the likes of Center Grove and the Jasper Eight Team Invite, but the Jasper coach is excited for the tough competition to keep his players sharp and prepare them for the postseason.

“We get three days to practice, get them to catch their breath a little bit, then get back into that second part of the season,” the coach said. “Competition doesn’t get any easier, which I love. I don’t like losing, but I do like playing good competition. They’ll be ready to go.”




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