Wildcats seize 4-1 regional victory over Loogootee

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Jasper senior Hudson Himsel yells in excitement after winning the Two Doubles match against Loogootee on Tuesday evening. The Wildcats claimed a 4-1 victory in the opening round of regionals.


JASPER — When the Jasper boys tennis team enters postseason play, head coach Scott Yarbrough understands that the squad is battle-tested. Equipped with the valuable experience gained from playing several of Indiana’s best opponents, the Wildcats (16-3) earned a 4-1 win over Loogootee during Tuesday’s opening round of regionals in Jasper.

“I say this a lot — our schedule is probably the most difficult in the state,” Yarbrough said. “I really think it prepares us for these moments more than anything else. There’s not going to be a whole lot of things that we don’t see during the season.”

Matches against top-ranked teams like Carmel, Center Grove and Homestead prepared Jasper for Tuesday’s contest. The veterans delivered the goods — two pairs of seniors gave the Wildcats significant boosts at the doubles positions.

Jobe Luebbehusen and Grant Stratton secured a convincing 6-2, 6-2 victory over Peyton Bledsoe and Luke Nonte at One Doubles. After taking a 6-4 victory in the first set of the Two Doubles match, Bennett Schmitt and Hudson Himsel shut out Andrew Walker and Rory Tippery in a 6-0 second set.

“(Schmitt) has played since he was a freshman,” Yarbrough said. “He was on the team in 2017 that was a state runner-up. Bennett’s not going to see anything or be in a situation where he feels more nervous or more tense than things he’s already done. This is a very experienced, very seasoned and very gutsy team that has done a lot over these last four years.”

Jasper junior Max Sternberg sealed a 6-0, 6-2 win over Loogootee’s Jalen Wildman at Two Singles. At Three Singles, Wildcats senior Grant Levy topped Bryant Eckerle with a 6-0, 6-2 victory of his own.

The One Singles match was the only contest to reach a third set. In a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 affair, Loogootee’s Jordan Wildman defeated Jasper senior Owen Franks.

”Owen Franks did an outstanding job,” Yarbrough said. “The only thing he didn’t do was finish it off. He played really well. He’s a doubles kid that adjusted and played some singles. I couldn’t have been more proud of that young man.”

The Lions presented a slew of intriguing challenges, but the Wildcats pounced on their early opportunities.

“They had some good, athletic kids,” Yarbrough said. “A coach’s son is playing Two Doubles. A coach’s kid is obviously a kid that knows what he’s doing. They had a lefty at One Doubles. Sometimes, the lefties mix in a little bit of a different type of spin and something you haven’t seen from that standpoint. I thought we handled all of that really well. We just got off to a nice start, didn’t make a lot of unforced errors and did well.”

As the Wildcats accumulated their wins, the victors watched their teammates’ matches unfold. Loud roars erupted from the Jasper faithful.

“We’re really close as a team,” Schmitt said. “People like to call us the Jasper tennis family. We’re all really tight. We just support each other. No matter if it’s the last person on, we’re going to be there to support them and cheer for them.”

In a concurrent sectional doubles match, the Southridge senior duo of Ethan Bell and Konner Thyen emerged victorious over the Northeast Dubois team of seniors Tanner Hurt and Logan Lampert. The three-set match concluded with final scores of 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Jasper will return at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Wildcats will face Washington in the regional championship.

“We’re excited,” Franks said. “We hope that we can do our best and see one of the bigger teams in the state finals.”

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