Rangers advance to sectional championshipSeptember 30, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Forest Park tennis coach Dean Blessinger was not happy with where his team was at just weeks ago. Now, they’re playing for a sectional championship.
“I raised the bar on them a little bit,” Blessinger said. “Midseason, we always do a bit of an evaluation and have a little bit of a Come-to-Jesus meeting, and told them I wasn’t happy where they were at, and it was time to start playing better tennis, and then as little as two weeks ago, we said, ‘Hey, you’re still not there. This is it. It’s two weeks, we’ve got five matches left. What are you going to do about it?’ And they took that challenge to their betterment, and they delivered.”
The Rangers (10-8) took on Southridge Wednesday on the first day of the Jasper Sectional. Blessinger has focused on winning singles matches, given how young his doubles players are.
The Raiders (13-8) trotted out their One Doubles team of seniors Ethan Bell and Konner Thyen and bested freshman Carter Fleck and sophomore Bryson Partenheimer of Forest Park, 6-1, 6-2. Seniors Levi Schaeffer and Sam Sermersheim also scored wins for the Raiders against sophomore Conner Tretter and freshman Kris Fuhrman of the Rangers in the Two Doubles, 6-2, 6-2.
To live another day, the singles would have to take care of business. Blessinger told his players this match against the Raiders would prove to him if they advanced their games. Senior Nathan Jarboe did his part against Southridge senior Austin Barkley in the One Singles, 6-2, 6-0. Sophomore Landen Marks did the same against senior Roger Hunter of the Raiders, 6-0, 6-0, and the match was even, 2-2.
The fate of the season would be determined by senior Wes Stout, who felt no pressure, as he swept Southridge junior Max Rasche, 6-3, 6-3, to give the Two Singles — and the match — to the Rangers, 3-2.
“I had my side cutter, and then my overhead just kind of finessed him,” Stout said.
Raiders coach Paul Kinker felt confident about how his doubles would do, but knew it would come down to the singles. Kinker said Rasche had what it took to win, but he would’ve had to execute. All three singles falling means it’s the end of the line for Southridge.
“Our doubles played extremely well,” Kinker said. “They kept us in a lot of the matches this year. Number one doubles only had one loss in the PAC, and number two doubles had zero losses in the PAC. So, they were undefeated, and they only lost three throughout the entire season. Doubles definitely was our strong suit. We expected one of the singles to win every match. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t. This is our fifth match we lost, 2-3.”
The Rangers are scheduled to be back at it at 5:00 p.m. Thursday to play for the sectional championship against Jasper. Forest Park’s only sectional championship came in 1977, while the Wildcats have won 14 consecutive sectional titles and 39 total. Only three programs in the state have won more in their history than Jasper has in its.
“We’re going to come and play,” Blessinger said. “We played them last Thursday, and they beat us, 5-0. We were competitive in one or two of the matches, but (Jasper coach Scott Yarbrough has got) maybe his best team in the past 10 years. They are really strong from top to bottom.”
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