Shultz returns, helps Jasper sweepOctober 7, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Jasper added another sectional championship to its collection last week and made it to Wednesday’s regional final after knocking off Loogootee the night before. However, it did all of that without its regular One Singles player — junior Justin Shultz.
The Wildcats (17-3) put seniors Will Messmer and Owen Franks at the One Singles spot during the sectional championship and regional opener, respectively, while Shultz was in quarantine. Missing sectional was tough, but he knew his teammates would cover for him, and he stayed active while he was out.
Shultz returned on Wednesday, however, and while he might’ve felt some rust in the beginning, he triumphed, 6-3, 6-3, against Washington’s Zachary Gray. He helped the Wildcats sweep the Hatchets, 5-0, for their 26th regional championship in history, and 10th in a row.
“I figured I could come back with the mindset of winning for the team, and the team did support me through it,” Shultz said.
The win in his match gave him confidence after being quarantined for two weeks.
Wildcats coach Scott Yarbrough said it feels different any time somebody doesn’t have its whole time. Yarbrough told the Herald they missed having Shultz around, and he talked about Shultz’s absence making practices different for Jasper.
“Every kid brings a different personality and a different niche into what they do and how they go about things,” Yarbrough said. “Shultzie’s known as the pretty boy a little bit. It takes him a little bit (of) time to get ready before practice, and he’s got to get his shoes on, and it takes him a little longer than everybody else. So, you miss that little type of personality and things like that.”
Personality aside, however, Yarbrough praised the work Shultz has put in from last year. Shultz ascended from being the One Singles in junior varsity all the way to One Singles in varsity. Yarbrough told of how happy he is for Shultz because of the time and effort the latter and his family put in to make him better. He took outside lessons and upped his workouts.
“Anytime you get them back, I think the team feels more whole, excited for them,” he said. “Will and Owen did a great job while he was out, that’s a tough position to fill in for, and I think the team was excited.”
Yarbrough thought both of his doubles teams did well by getting their serves in and putting pressure on their opponents. He added how well Jasper got to the net Wednesday. He thought junior Two Singles player Max Sternberg has done a nice job dictating with his forehand, while senior Three Singles player Grant Levy has shown a lot of patience and determination in his slot.
Jasper has won 12 semi-state championships, with is tied for the sixth most in state history. However, the Wildcats haven’t added a semi-state trophy since 2017, and standing in their way is a Castle team whom they defeated, 3-2, on Aug. 28. The Knights won the One Singles and Two Singles matches, while the Wildcats took the rest.
However, the Knights have also changed their lineup since then, and Saturday’s matches will be different. Yarbrough believes Castle has strengthened its doubles play, and Saturday’s doubles action will be more important.
“I feel like we’ve got a little bit of an advantage maybe at Two and Three Singles, but I feel like they know they’ve strengthened their doubles, too,” Yarbrough said. “So, that’ll be new matches in both of those spots.”
The Wildcats winning another regional championship wasn’t the only local triumph to happen on Wednesday.
Forest Park senior Nathan Jarboe notched a 6-2, 6-1 win in the individual sectional against White River Valley junior Conner Banning. Jarboe is set to play Loogootee senior Jordan Wildman Thursday for the individual sectional championship.
“This is the fruit of a lot of hard work Nathan’s put in for the past six years,” Forest Park coach Dean Blessinger said. “This is his reward, and he couldn’t be any more deserving of it.”
Blessinger thinks Jarboe has at least a 50/50 chance of coming away with a championship, since he’s playing his best tennis right now. He added that Jarboe will be playing a fine opponent, but his opponent will be playing a fine individual, too.
Wildman bested Jarboe during the regular season, and Jarboe will get the chance for payback, just like he was hoping.
“I’m definitely hitting my serves a lot better,” Jarboe said. “I was double faulting a lot at the beginning of the year. It’s just working on trusting myself, and tennis is a lot of your game. You got to put yourself out there. It’s a lot of hitting the ball yourself, not relying on everybody else to hit it back.”
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