Wildcats edged out by Panthers in semi-state

Jasper's Grant Levy returns the ball during Saturday's tennis semistate in Jasper. Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

JASPER —  For the Jasper boys tennis team, it came down to one final court in Saturday’s  semi-state tennis match. The Wildcats won both doubles matches, but lost on the first two singles courts as the team’s fate rested in the result of the three singles match. Grant Levy put in a solid performance in his first set against Evansville Reitz’s Jordan Wilson, which he took 6-3.

“I was keeping balls in, hitting balls deep,” said Levy. “I kind of got in his head, he was rattled. But he calmed himself for the second set, started coming to the net more. He won points at the net making volleys.”

Wilson fought back to take the next two 6-2, 6-0 as the Panthers topped the Wildcats 3-2. Levy did his best, and his performance Saturday was an improvement over the first time he faced Wilson back in September (he was defeated 6-1, 6-0), but wishes he could have done more to help the Wildcats advance further in the state tournament.

“You want to win that every time, especially for the team,” said Levy. “When you’re the last match on and it’s tied, you want to be that guy who can step up for the team. He stepped up his game in the last two sets. He adjusted to what I was doing, and I didn’t adjust back.”

Wildcats coach Scott Yarbrough thought Levy, as well as the rest of the singles line up, got off to good starts and followed the plan to play extended sets and test the Panthers’ endurance. In the end, Reitz’s singles players were able to catch fire as the matches went on, toughing out the three matches they needed to move on to the state quarterfinals.

“We didn’t get bliztkrieged right out,” he said. “We didn’t know if we would be leading any matches, but what we didn’t want is guys just to jump on us. With tennis, momentum is an important thing. Sometimes you lose that momentum and it’s tough to get it back. I thought Grant played a great first set, then drops that first game and gives the other kid a little (life). It just felt like the other kid gained a little momentum at that time. I think he was a little nervous and tight.”

Yarbrough was proud of what his team was able to accomplish this season. He liked how they responded to the competition on their schedule, and can’t wait to get back on the court with his boys next season.

“You can never be disappointed going to semi-state,” he said. “The one thing our schedule did this year is prepare us for this. From that standpoint I told the kids it’s a good season. We return a lot of these guys, it’ll be interesting to see what we do between now and next year.”

Yarbrough’s greatest hope is that the boys use the offseason to get some more court experience from playing in tournaments around the area. The boys have limited control over how much they grow and develop physically between seasons, but Yarbrough believes the team will be best served if the boys don’t allow rust to start forming on their racquets.

“All those kids are dedicated to tennis,” he said. “They can get bigger (and) stronger, but they need to stay focused and not let it slip. You can always get more experience from going out and playing more, I think that’s what those guys need more than anything else.”

At least one player on the team is hearing the message loud and clear.

“Losing the match just makes me want to work harder this offseason, come back and beat him next year,” said Levy. “I don’t want to let the team down again.”

Jasper's Max Sternberg lunges for the ball during Saturday's tennis semistate in Jasper. Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald



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