Rangers looking to build on success of 2019July 15, 2020
BY JONATHAN SAXON
FERDINAND — Forest Park boys tennis coach Dean Blessinger values the simple things in life. Right now, that means he’s appreciating that his players don’t seem to have a lot of rust on their racquets as they started practice for the fall season.
“The guys were all very excited and full of energy,” Blessinger said. “We looked like we know how to play tennis, which was a good sign.”
The Rangers made it to the sectional final against Jasper last season, but were defeated soundly by the Wildcats, 5-0. Despite getting swept, Blessinger pointed to Landen Marks’ No. 3 singles match against Grant Levy as something the Rangers can focus on as they work on getting back to the final.
“It’s a tremendous measuring stick,” he said, referring to the Wildcats. “It’s a tough assignment every year. We were competitive at one of the matches, and we were very young last year. We look forward to hopefully getting that opportunity again.”
There’s one other thing that lifts Blessinger’s spirits for the season: the return of senior Nathan Jarboe. Jarboe, who sports a 41-13 career record, will be back at the No. 1 singles spot, and Blessinger is looking for him to have an impressive senior campaign. Jarboe is a power player who’s able to end his points quickly with big swings, and is working on getting better at the net this season.
But Jarboe won’t be the only show in town. Senior Wesley Stout will also be back in the No. 2 singles slot, and the lefty plays a high-energy, unorthodox style that’ll cause a lot of frustration for his opponents. The sophomore Marks has the inside track on No. 3 singles, but Blessinger thinks a couple of other young players could challenge for that spot. Sophomore Bryson Partenheimer should make his way back into one of the No. 1 doubles spots, but Blessinger is still working on finding him a partner in what is otherwise an open competition at doubles. Blessinger is also focused on reclaiming the point at No. 2 doubles, which is a historical strength the Rangers have gotten away from in recent years.
The Rangers also have a host of talented younger players who could make an impact this season. Sophomore Conner Tretter is someone Blessinger thinks could find himself in the line up with his combination of tennis IQ and the offseason work he’s put in. Blessinger also loves what he’s seeing from his freshman group with Carter Fleck, Kris Fuhrman and Grant Fischer in the fearless way they approach the game.
Ending points fast will be a major focus area for the Rangers in the fall. Tennis matches can be grinding events, and Blessinger would prefer it if his guys could score points quickly to preserve themselves as much as possible. He also wants to see them improve on setting up their points for greater control on the court.
“We talk a lot of tennis philosophy,” he said. “When is the time to go and win a point? When is the time to buy time? Sometimes you hit a soft touch shot just to reposition yourself and check your opponent to see how they handle that. We probe a lot of things like that.”
Blessinger said the Pocket Athletic Conference will be strong with the addition of former Big Eight schools Boonville, Mt. Vernon, Princeton and Washington, but the goal of finishing in the top two or three spots remains the same. Blessinger also added it would be one of the biggest feats in program history if the Rangers can work their way back to the sectional final and find a way to win it.
“For us, that would be like winning a state title,” he said. “We would look upon that as a major achievement. It would be one of the top sectionals at Forest Park.”
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