Wildcats roll to another sectional crownOctober 1, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Make that sectional championship No. 40 all-time, and 15 in a row for Jasper.
The Wildcats (14-3) welcomed Forest Park Thursday for the championship of the Jasper Sectional, and ran away with a 4-1 win. It’s just the latest in a series of triumphs for Jasper this year, who have been ranked second in the state at one point. Forest Park coach Dean Blessinger suggested Wednesday this might be the best Jasper boys tennis team in the past 10 years.
So, what is it about this particular group that shines?
“A lot of seniors, a lot of experience, a lot of guys that have been through this before,” Wildcats coach Scott Yarbrough said.
Jasper has seven seniors on its roster this year, with five of them victorious on Wednesday. Jobe Luebbehusen and Grant Stratton won the One Doubles, 6-1, 6-0, against freshman Carter Fleck and sophomore Bryson Partenheimer of the Rangers (10-9). Bennett Schmitt and Hudson Himsel ran away with the Two Doubles, 6-0, 6-0, against Forest Park sophomore Conner Tretter and freshman Kris Fuhrman.
Grant Levy had a sore arm after it was all said and done on Thursday, but got the Three Singles win against Forest Park sophomore Landen Marks, 6-0, 6-2.
“It’s an honor to be playing for a team that’s traditionally this great in a program that has had so much success over the years,” Levy said. “Looking back at the teams that we grew up with watching, all the high school players that were amazing and we looked up to; and then having people say we’re just as good or better than them, it’s just an accomplishment. It was worth all the effort that we put in over the years.”
Blessinger put an emphasis on his players competing in Thursday’s sectional against the Wildcats, and he was happy with what he saw.
“This group gets along super well, our team chemistry was outstanding," Blessinger said. "We need a few more numbers, but I couldn't be happier with these guys. I think they achieved pretty much everything we wanted to achieve. We always set goals at the start of the season. We want to compete in the PAC, try to win that conference championship. We play two tournaments — we like to win those tournaments, we won both of them, and we want to be in that championship match in the sectional.
"And we realize what we're up against, it's a David and Goliath match," he continued. "But we want it because it makes us better."
Forest Park isn’t completely done with its 2020 tennis season. Senior Nathan Jarboe bested Jasper senior Will Messmer, 6-2, 6-2, to qualify for the individual sectional next week.
“I’m looking forward to the next matches,” Jarboe said. “I’ve got a long road ahead of me still.”
The Wildcats did not have their usual One Singles player in junior Justin Shultz, who is expected to rejoin the team Oct. 7 on the second day of the Jasper regional. Messmer had been part of the One Doubles team on junior varsity before ascending to the varsity One Singles role for the first time on Wednesday.
Messmer felt he had some good competition in Jarboe, whom he was happy for in victory.
“I was really nervous going into the match, especially going from JV One Doubles all the way to varsity One Singles as the best player on the team, it’s just really a hard spot to step into,” Messmer said.
Yarbrough said senior Owen Franks will play the One Singles match Tuesday in the regional before Shultz is expected to return the very next day. Yarbrough thought Messmer did a nice job while preparing on short notice.
He saw this year’s sectional championship as a sigh of relief, since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down spring sports, and Jasper didn’t have a girls tennis season this year. Yarbrough is happy his boys got the opportunity this year.
“I felt so bad for those girls that didn’t get that chance last spring, and these seven seniors — in tennis, seven is a ton of seniors in one class, and for those guys to get to experience this one more time is really neat,” he said.
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