Up for anything, adjusting Jeeps keep it moving

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Northeast Dubois sophomore Luke Harder joined Ethan Ziegler for a 6-0, 6-1 victory at No. 2 doubles Tuesday in Dubois, where the Jeeps were straight-set winners at every position in a 5-0 sweep of Southridge. For more photos from the match, click here.


DUBOIS — Case Eisenhut shifting from the No. 1 singles spot to playing No. 1 doubles with Alex Harder. Ethan Ziegler returning to play with his 2016 sectional partner Luke Harder on the doubles court. Two different freshmen playing with the varsity squad in the first two days.

Only two matches into the season for Northeast Dubois, and there’s already a whole lot of movement happening for the Jeeps.

“We know we have players who can play both singles and doubles and we’re going to be looking at different combinations,” Jeep coach Dwayne Knies said following Tuesday’s 5-0 shutout of Southridge, the second sweep for the Jeeps in as many days. “We’re stressing that the team comes first and they realize that. The guys are very accepting of playing the position that gives us the best chance to advance in the tourney later in the season.”

Knies said one of the duos that’s looked most comfortable together is the No. 2 doubles tandem of sophomores Luke Harder and Ethan Ziegler. Ziegler, who executed a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 3 singles the day prior at Pike Central, teamed up with an old friend and nearly nabbed another shutout Tuesday in their 6-0, 6-1 triumph.

“I really hope that it’s me and him playing doubles when we get to the end of the year and go into sectional,” Luke Harder said. “It’s a lot less work and a lot more fun.”

While all of the players have said they’re comfortable about playing either singles or doubles, it’s clear to see that the guys all have their preferred positions — and that’s playing with a buddy.

“I’m definitely more of a doubles guy,” Jeep senior Alex Harder said following a 6-1, 6-1 No. 1 doubles win alongside classmate Case Eisenhut, predominantly a singles player since his freshman year. “I take whoever coach sends my way and help them pick it up the best that they can and do what we do best.”

Ziegler prefers going the doubles route for a wider strike zone.

“You get doubles alleys, I love getting doubles alleys,” Ziegler said. “You also don’t have to serve and serve-receive every single time, that’s nice.”

Another player who’s seen most of his playing time in doubles is Tanner Hurt. But that was when the freshman was playing in middle school — a lot different than his first career varsity match Tuesday. While Alex Bauer bumped up to No. 1 singles for the first time and rolled 6-0, 6-1 and Reece Bauer was a 6-1, 6-2 winner at No. 2 singles, Hurt capped the singles sweep with a 6-3, 6-4 decision at No. 3.

“It’s a lot more competitive here just with all of the sectional wins in the past,” Hurt said. “But I think I played pretty well overall in my first match. Need to work on my serve and returns a little but other than that I think I played well.”

Knies knows freshmen tend to be a little more inhibited their first time on the court in a varsity setting, but Hurt? Knies couldn’t even tell he was a rookie.

“He came out and played very aggressive and that’s not always the case with a freshman,” Knies said. “Sometimes they’ll come out a little scared, but not Tanner. That was good to see.”

Southridge's Owen Kinker battled Northeast Dubois' Tanner Hurt in the No. 3 singles match Tuesday. For more photos from the match, click here.

For new Southridge coach Paul Kinker, the loss didn’t sting as bad as he thought it would, especially against a Northeast Dubois squad that stretched its regular-season win streak to 78 matches.

Kinker located many positives — from his son Owen playing No. 3 singles and pushing Hurt in the last match to finish, to Nos. 1 and 2 singles players Logan Welp and Carson Mundy being more competitive despite the Jeeps’ winning margins.

“Northeast Dubois is a really good team so it was a good barometer for us to see where we stand,” Kinker said. “I still would like to see a little more aggressiveness and there’s work to be done on the serves but overall, I’m not disappointed at all right now.”

Neither was Welp, given the spirit he witnessed on both sides of the fence — from Raider JV players engaged in the matches and cheering enthusiastically outside the courts, to the communication between Southridge’s doubles partners.

“I thought everyone just had a really good attitude today,” Welp said. “We just like to cheer everything and always keep momentum going because once you give up momentum is just goes downhill from there — you have to keep it up over 110 percent.”

The Raiders know it can be hard to keep momentum up at times, so they’ve got fixes for those stressful stretches.

For Mundy, that’s fidgeting with the strings of his racket between points. “You just get so frustrated that you just have to squeeze them hard,” Mundy said.

Welp opts for a different approach, singing songs and humming tunes but to regain composure. But no, “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots isn’t one of the tunes in Welp’s serenity plan.

“It just helps me to not let it get in my head,” Welp said. “There’s not really any certain songs that I’ll sing, but anything I can whistle to, that will work for me.”

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