Young Jeeps embrace new team mentor rolesAugust 28, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
Looking around the Northeast Dubois’ boys tennis team, you’ll see players acting as mentors to one another on how to improve simple things such as their backhands and forehands to little tips and tricks on how to best win points in key situations.
The Jeeps might not seem like a team that doesn’t have any seniors on their squad but take a quick glance at the 2018 Northeast Dubois boys tennis roster and you’ll see a lot of 9’s, 10’s and 11’s next to the grade level listed by each player’s name but no 12’s.
One of the reasons that the Jeeps don’t seem like a group without any senior leaders is because, well, technically they have a couple — they’re just juniors. No. 1 singles player Reece Bauer and No. 2 singles player Ethan Ziegler have taken over the role as Northeast Dubois’ elder statesmen as the two players have played varsity tennis for two years and are now taking over a role that was held in place last year by graduating players Case Eisenhut, Alex Bauer and Alex Harder.
“Me and Ethan (Ziegler) have been pulling the underclassmen along with us and we both kind of feel like we’re seniors a bit,” said Bauer who was victorious 6-0, 6-0 in the Jeeps 5-0 defeat of Tell City on Monday night. “You can tell there’s a bit of a senior leadership on this team even though we don’t have any seniors.”
Northeast Dubois head coach Dwayne Knies tried to prepare Bauer and Ziegler for their new roles this season and he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from the tandem so far.
“I talked to both of those guys early in the season like they are the leaders on our team and the younger players are going to practice like they practice and play like they play. I think coming into this season, they knew they had the expectation of being the leaders and they’ve both done a great job,” Knies said. “Ethan has really worked hard and these last two weeks he’s really turned a corner while Reece has been steady all year. I think if they’re willing to work at it and put a little time into it, that will rub off on the younger players.”
Younger players have dominated the Northeast Dubois lineup this season. For example, in Monday night’s win against Tell City five of the seven players the Jeeps used were sophomores.
Players such as sophomores Lane Knies, Logan Mehringer, Ross Mehringer, Tucker Neukam, Logan Lampert and Tanner Hurt have all seen their roles increase tenfold this season. While Knies saw a decent amount of action at the No. 3 singles spot for the Jeeps last year, including during their postseason run, others such as Neukam had never played against a varsity opponent until this season.
“I’ve learned that varsity players are a lot, lot better,” said Neukam, talking about the difference he’s noticed from playing junior varsity and varsity tennis. “They get their serves in and it’s just a lot more competitive.”
Neukam has spent most of his season playing at the No. 2 doubles spot — like he did on Monday against Tell City where he won 6-0, 6-0 with Ross Mehringer.
He’s spent a lot of his time learning from Ziegler who spent a lot of time playing doubles last season and he’s happy that’s where he’s at — Neukam said he prefers to spend his time playing with a partner.
“Watching those guys play last year and Ethan telling me and showing me what I need to do, it’s helped a lot,” Neukam said. “I just love having a partner and someone else to play with — being able to talk to someone after every point is nice.”
Knies has been impressed with how the sophomores have performed this season in some tough battles. With the season still young, he’s hoping they’ll continue to grow as they get more and more experience under their belt.
“Going back to last year when they were freshmen, they knew that they were going to have to step it up this year,” Knies said. “They knew there were going to be some more open spots which meant there would be some competition among themselves but they’re still teammates so they’ve supported each other. I think we’ve had a few guys step up and kind of take control of some of those spots.”
Bauer added: “A couple of these guys are still getting used to varsity tennis but they’ve done a good job of performing and staying positive even though we’ve lost a couple matches which is a little different for some of us. It’s going to happen sometimes and it’s only going to make us better.”
With a roster full of non-seniors, the Jeeps already know that they’ll be returning their entire team next season with plenty of experience under their belt for a potential deep postseason run.
However, the Jeeps aren’t focused on what may lie ahead in the future — they’re all in on whatever may occur this season.
“Even though we already lost to two teams in our sectional (Loogootee and Barr-Reeve), I hope we can still come out and play better against them and still come away with a sectional,” Bauer said. “I’d like us to still be able to compete in the regional, if not win it. It’s not necessarily a goal of ours but we’re still expecting to be pretty good and compete, we’re not just going to get blown out of the water.”
Knies added: “I want my players to believe that we can be a pretty good team this year. Hopefully we can do some damage when it comes tournament time, that’s our hope.”
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