Support system revs Jeeps to crown

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Members of the Northeast Dubois boys tennis team hoisted their sectional trophy Thursday after defeating host Loogootee 3-2 in the title match. The Jeeps, who captured the crown for the fifth consecutive year, will take on North Daviess on Tuesday in a regional semifinal at Jasper. For more photos from the match, click here.


LOOGOOTEE — With Northeast Dubois boys tennis needing just one more sectional final win over Loogootee on Thursday to clinch a regional berth, the Jeep No. 1 doubles tandem of Alex Bauer and Alex Harder immediately went to a nearby fence to support teammate Reece Bauer in his No. 2 singles bout.

The seniors, who had finished off a 6-1, 6-2 win not long before, were quick to yell in jubilation after every point Reece Bauer won. They were just as fast to offer a pick-me-up if a shot didn’t go his way.

The plethora of support wasn’t just present after the duo finished its match — there was a chorus of encouragement from court to court as soon as the day’s first serve was attempted.

“If we saw Reece get a good short or see him win a game, it’s good to let him know we’re watching and cheering for him to keep that momentum going and help him to get a run going from game to game,” Alex Harder said. “In our match in the first set, we were just going back and forth yelling to our other teammates, but in the second set it kind of started to die down as we got closer to finishing our match. As soon as we got done, we had to go sit down and watch them to let them know we’re still behind them.”

The Jeeps defeated the host Lions 3-2 to advance to their fifth straight regional at Jasper, where they will face North Daviess in a semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Northeast Dubois’ Reece Bauer picked up the sectional final-deciding win at No. 2 singles Thursday against Loogootee.

With the rousing backing from teammates both on the court and on the sidelines, Reece Bauer was grateful to have a helpful system behind him in a critical match. Bauer’s 6-2, 6-4 win over Loogootee’s Jalen Wildman at the No. 2 singles slot was back and forth, with great emotion shown on both sides in the second set.

“It means quite a bit hearing those guys behind me, knowing they’re wanting me to do my best,” Reece Bauer said. “I rally off of them, and I know they rally off of me when they’re on the court, so it just gets everyone’s emotions a little bit higher. I know that my emotions definitely came out there after I won it.”

For Northeast Dubois coach Dwayne Knies, there’s nothing he enjoys seeing more than his players being vocal on the court. And while guys such as Alex Harder, who Knies called the team’s “vocal leader,” make sure their voices are prevalent, he was excited to see a few athletes who aren’t commonly as loud show signs of jubilation in the win.

“Hearing Alex and Reece Bauer talk a lot tonight and just feed off one another was great,” Knies said. “I was worried about Reece’s match going into three sets because you never know what can happen when going to a third set, but I was relieved to see him pull that out. I think his attitude was great and that helped him zero in on what he needed to do.”

Alex Bauer knows tennis is a game in which momentum can seesaw based on who has the hot hand. So how does he to look to push the momentum meter toward the Jeeps?

“I think the more yelling we do, the better we get,” he said with a grin. “Motivation is key in this sport, we’ve been practicing hard all season, and now we have to keep pushing because I feel like we’re basically at our best right now.”

“I think we’re right where we want to be,” Knies added. “We play all these matches all season to try and build to get ready for sectional, and I feel like our guys responded tonight and played well.”

If the Jeeps get past the Cougars on Tuesday, a particularly familiar foe could be waiting in the regional championship at Jasper — the host school.

The Wildcats have knocked Northeast Dubois out of the regional in each of the latter’s previous four appearances. The Cats won 5-0 in 2013 and 2014, with the Jeeps gaining ground the past two seasons while losing 4-1 in 2015 and nearly pulling off the upset in a 3-2 loss in 2016.

Northeast Dubois added a little extra preparation for a potential meeting this year by participating in the Jasper Invitational for the first time. Even though the Jeeps didn’t play Jasper head-to head, they did see the Cats in a few individual matches and also matched up against other tough competition.

And while a rematch with Jasper isn’t a guarantee, just the thought of it gets Alex Harder excited.

“During the season, we always think if we win sectional, ‘What is our next goal going to be?,’” Harder said. “And it always just comes down to Jasper every single time, and you know they’re going to be tough. I feel like we’re more prepared this year than in previous years.”

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