Wildcats advance in regional; Bauer cruises

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Jasper's Mitch Kluemper fist bumps Grant Stratton in their No. 1 doubles match during Tuesday's tennis regional in Jasper. Jasper defeated Loogootee 4-1. For more photos from the regional, click here.


JASPER — Heading into Tuesday’s regional play at the Ed Yarbrough Tennis Complex, coach Scott Yarbrough was worried about how his team would perform.

Considering the Wildcats have won the past eight regionals and 24 overall, Yarbrough’s worry should have given tennis fans reason to pause.

The Wildcats, who just last week won their 14th consecutive tennis sectional championship and 29th in the past 30 years, had not impressed the veteran coach in practices Friday and Monday.

And Yarbrough knew what could happen if his team was not at its best.

“The worst thing you can do when a team comes in — I’m sure there are those who’d say Jasper’s the favorite and Loogootee’s the underdog — the last thing you want to do is get off to a slow start and give [your opponent] some hope, give them a little bit of a lead. And that’s something that worried me, because I knew Loogootee’s pretty good, look at the scores. I knew who they played, I knew the coaches were and who the players were,” Yarbrough said.

But by the time the Wildcats advanced to today’s 5:30 p.m. final with a 4-1 victory over the Lions, Yarbrough was reflective.

“The matches, individually, kinda went the way I thought they would,” he said. “The only one that may have surprised me, I thought our one doubles (Mitch Kluemper and Grant Stratton defeated Sebastian Toy and Luke Nonte, 6-5, 6-2) kinda got off to a slow start, and then kicked into gear pretty quick.

“I thought Max (Sternberg, No. 1 singles) got off to a really nice start, and actually all three singles jumped up early. I thought Max controlled his match early, and I thought Grant Levy (at No. 3 singles) did a real nice job. Across the board, I was happy that we came out and competed.”

Sternberg defeated Jordan Wildman, 6-1, 6-0, and Levy defeated Bryant Eckerle, 6-3, 6-3. Loogootee’s Jalen Wildman defeated Bennett Schmitt, 6-4, 6-2, for Jasper’s only setback.

In No. 2 doubles, Hudson Himsel and Jobe Luebbehusen defeated Nathan Seals and Jayden Leatherman, 6-2, 6-3.

Then Yarbrough let his guard down, and admitted: “I was happy with the way the night went, overall. I think the kids did a nice job. I felt we maintained our composure, even when we dropped a game here and there, and when the match was close.”

The Wildcats face Bloomfield today for the right to play in Saturday’s semistate at noon on the same Jasper courts. Bloomfield lost to Loogootee earlier this year, “so obviously maybe that gives us a little bit of an edge,” Yarbrough said.

If things go as expected, Saturday’s semistate will feature some of the top teams in the state. Those vying for Saturday’s berth include No. 3 Columbus North, No. 4 Floyd Central, No. 10 Evansville Reitz, No. 14 Jasper and Top 20 Castle.

Northeast Dubois' Reece Bauer hits a volley during Tuesday's individual tennis sectional in Jasper. Bauer won 6-3, 6-1. For more photos from the regional, click here.

While the four regional teams were determining whose seasons would continue, sectional play for individuals whose teams have been eliminated began when Reece Bauer of Northeast Dubois took on Jaylen Mullen of North Daviess. Bauer entered the match with a 22-2 record for the year, and emerged with a 23-2 record after dispatching of Mullen, 6-3, 6-1. Bauer will have to wait to see when he will next play, which is determined by how the No. 1 singles matchup between Sternberg and Turner Royal of Bloomfield turns out. The Northeast Dubois sensation may play Saturday, or may advance without playing to individual regionals Oct. 19.

The tandem of Ethan Ziegler and Luke Harder will carry the hopes of Northeast Dubois into today’s individual sectional when they meet Owen Gray and Austin Gere of Washington in doubles play. The Hatchets duo defeated Eli Cumming and Ryan Schulte of Bloomfield, 6-2, 6-3, on Tuesday to keep their postseason run intact.

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