Neighbors brace for Indy showdown

Olivia Corya/The Herald
Jasper's Will Seger, above, will team with Noah Moss in the individual doubles state finals this weekend against Forest Park's Sam Beckman and Trent Weyer.



By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

Scott Yarbrough and Dean Blessinger, the respective tennis coaches at Jasper and Forest Park, realize it would never fly with the IHSAA. But they couldn’t help but think a change of venue would be apropos.

Jasper’s senior No. 1 doubles duo of Will Seger and Noah Moss will complete the 135-mile haul to Indianapolis for this weekend’s individual doubles state finals. Forest Park seniors Trent Weyer and Sam Beckman will be blazing the same three-hour trail. And once the Wildcats and Rangers get to Park Tudor High School for their quarterfinal match at 2 p.m. Friday, they’ll be playing none than ... each other.

Blessinger just had to laugh when the state finals pairings came down Tuesday, and he shot Yarbrough a text message.

“I said, ‘Hey, how ’bout we bypass the 300-mile round trip to Indy and we drive 24 miles and play you on your courts. I’ll even give you home-court advantage,’” Blessinger offered.

Yep, it’s odd, but it’s just how the tournament trail unfolded: Two teams 20 minutes apart and from the same sectional, winning all the way through the state tournament en route to a Dubois County showdown — albeit a bit remote.

“First reaction was, ‘What the heck, we’re playing Jasper?’ Three-hour drive just to play Jasper,” Beckman said, smiling.

“It’s pretty crazy, to be honest,” Seger said.

The doubles squads never intersected this season, either at the sectional or when Forest Park played in Jasper’s invitational in early September. Ironically, the Ranger team’s only defeat came at that tournament to Jasper’s reserve No. 1 doubles team of Andy Knust and Jared Matsel. That result, Blessinger said, speaks to Jasper’s depth — and was also a bit of a wake-up to Weyer and Beckman, who did snipe two quality victories at the tourney by knocking off teams from Castle and Silver Creek.

The pedigrees may differ for Seger and Moss (25-2) — who didn’t lose until their 18th match of the season — and Beckman and Weyer (12-1), who teamed in doubles intermittently in the regular season while toggling between singles. They share common ground, though, within partnerships where one player has a built-in advantage.

Each team features a left-handed player, with Weyer and Moss both capable of producing strokes and spins most opponents don’t see. When Jasper’s Margot Eckerle and Brooklyn Becher fell in the doubles state semifinals in 2007, the consensus was that a tricky left-handed serve from one of Valparaiso’s players played a starring role in the Cats’ downfall. That works for Moss when he serves to the right service box, with his nasty spin making the ball kick at a parabola sometimes 8 to 10 feet off the court — at some courts with close quarters, his serve has even hit the fence before the opponent can so much as touch it with a racket.

The Cats enter the weekend buoyed by their most complete win of the season at last week’s team state finals. Yarbrough said he could notice looks of resignation from Park Tudor’s doubles tandem early in the second set, when Seger and Moss reeled off the final six games to complete a 6-2, 6-2 victory.

A gust of momentum like that has Seger and Moss feeling they’re worthy of becoming the first doubles state champs from the boys program. A win Friday would move Jasper into Saturday’s semifinals against Marion or Culver Academy, with more traditional powers Carmel, Indianapolis Brebeuf and Penn stationed on the other side of the draw.

“Honestly, I expect us to be in the finals,” Moss said.

“My expectation would be for us to — I don’t want to look over any teams — but to hopefully get to the finals and win a state championship,” Seger said. “I don’t see why that wouldn’t be, not an expectation, but more of just a goal.”

Blessinger admits the Cats are on a “different mission than we are. We at first were on a journey of exploration to see how far we could get. And now, it’s soak it up and witness and enjoy and see what the atmosphere’s all about.”

That’ll be a departure from what the Rangers are accustomed to, with Park Tudor’s stadium seating that overlooks the courts and makes for a tennis experience that Yarbrough said is one of the best in the state. Blessinger figures the immensity of what Weyer and Beckman accomplished — becoming the first Forest Park tennis players to reach the state finals — won’t fully be absorbed until they enter their surroundings Friday.

“You think of little Forest Park, 500 students, (going against) schools with 3,000 kids in it. It’s a little hard to think about, Beckman said.

“Since it was the first time in school history, that made me think a little bit,” Weyer added. “But otherwise, (the mindset is) just keep playing the way we have been.”

The two have been somewhat incognito, even at their own school. It wasn’t until after they won last weekend’s regional that their accomplishments were broadcast on the announcements at school. But Beckman said it’s undisputed that he now owns bragging rights over his brother, Marcus, who graduated in 2011. And Weyer added the two are campaigning with athletic director Doug Louden to get their picture posted at school alongside the other former Ranger standout athletes.

Blessinger acknowledged it’s mandatory that Beckman and Weyer have their “A-plus” game to hang with Jasper. But after breaking down the matchup, Blessinger exited analyst mode and grinned. Friday, he promised, is going to be fun.

“Taking two teams from Dubois County is awesome, that’s really neat,” Yarbrough said. “I’m really happy for Forest Park. They came over and used our indoor facility a little bit this winter, so hopefully that paid off a little bit for them. It’s good to see hard work pay off.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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