Youthful Cats win eighth straight regional titleOctober 3, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
JASPER — It’s no secret that the Jasper boys tennis team is a little bit younger this season than they’ve been in some of their previous postseason runs.
The Wildcats have one freshman, three sophomores, one junior and two seniors in their varsity lineup. Three of the Jasper players had never even played a postseason match prior to last week’s sectional.
Naturally, there have been a few jitters and nervous moments in some of the bigger matches such as last week’s sectional championship against Forest Park and Wednesday night’s regional championship against Loogootee. Some of the Cats with past postseason experience have shared some tips with the younger players to help them deal with the postseason nerves — except sophomore Bennett Schmitt.
“Oh, I still get pretty nervous,” said Schmitt with a laugh following his 6-2, 6-2 victory at No. 1 doubles with Mitch Kluemper in Jasper’s 5-0 victory over Loogootee for their eighth straight regional championship. “Nothing has really changed for me since last year.”
Luckily for Schmitt, who played in the state championship match at No. 3 singles last year as a freshman, his doubles partner doesn’t get as nervous.
In fact, junior Mitch Kluemper prefers to throw a bunch of positivity his way before each match and let the rest happen from there.
“I just kind of pump myself up and tell myself that I’m really good,” Kluemper said with a laugh. “Last year I would get a little nervous but my doubles partner (Andrew Hochgesang) would help me through it.”
Prior to this season, Mitch Kluemper is the only one of the four Jasper doubles players who had any varsity experience playing at the doubles position. Sophomores Hudson Himsel and Jobe Luebbehusen (the No. 2 doubles players who won 6-0, 6-2 on Wednesday) are in their first season of playing varsity while Schmitt played singles last year.
For Schmitt and Kluemper, it didn’t take them long to click as a doubles tandem due to their past experience playing together as partners.
“We started playing doubles way back in sixth grade so we just kind of clicked right away,” Kluemper said. “I think our games have grown to complement each other — my forehand is pretty strong and Bennett’s backhand is just wicked.”
Schmitt added: “I think we just work really well together. The combination of my groundstrokes and (Kluemper’s) volleys just complements each other.”
The No. 2 doubles tandem of Luebbehusen and Himsel felt like they first started to fully click as a group when they played in the Center Grove tournament. Despite losing their matches against some tough teams, the pair felt that playing against those top-ranked opponents helped them feed off of each others strengths more.
“I mean, we’ve come really far,” said Luebbehusen. “I think back to walking in here as a sophomore and thinking that yeah I’d play a little bit of varsity but I didn’t think I’d get this far.”
Himsel added: “We just had to put in a lot of good work in the offseason due to all the seniors that graduated but I think it paid off now that we’re here.”
While it took Himsel and Luebbehusen a little time to fully click on the tennis court, they were already pretty close counterparts off of it.
The friendship that they have away from the courts has helped to make their bond even stronger as they continue their postseason run with a semistate battle against Floyd Central coming up this Saturday.
“I mean, we were kind of good buddies anyway since we had always kind of hung out with the same friend group,” Luebbehusen said. “Playing doubles is just kind of a bonus.”
Jasper head coach Scott Yarbrough started playing around with this season’s lineup as last year started to trickle to an end as he tried to piece together the players that he would have returning to the squad.
However, the lineup that Yarbrough envisioned last season looks nothing like the one that ended up taking place — and that’s not a bad thing.
“Last year, if you would’ve gave me 25 guesses I would’ve never put this lineup together,” Yarbrough said. “These guys are competitive and I think the competitive side is what spurs them on. There’s always jitters and I think there will be some butterflies on Sunday but these young guys have handled this well.”
The final match results from Wednesday’s regional championship were as follows: Eli Franks defeated Max Christmas at No. 1 singles 6-1, 6-1, Michael Kluemper won at No. 2 singles over Jalen Wildman 6-4, 6-3, Max Sternberg cruised past Nathan Seals 6-1, 6-0, Mitch Kluemper/Bennett Schmitt defeated Sheldan Christmas/Jordan Wildman 6-2, 6-2 and Hudson Himsel/Jobe Luebbehusen defeated Bailey Dearwester/Sebastian Toy 6-0, 6-2.
The Wildcats, who ended the regular season ranked No. 13, will face No. 4 Floyd Central in this Saturday’s semistate match at Jasper. The Cats were supposed to play the Highlanders for their final match of the regular season but rain had other plans as the battle was a washout.
However, the Cats will have a chance to upset the higher-ranked Highlanders and Yarbrough knows the young guys are eager for that chance this Saturday.
“As far as being ready, I’m not too concerned about that,” Yarbrough said. “I just hope it’s a fun day. I want the young guys to play well, compete, give them hell and see what we can do.”
Schmitt added: “I mean we’re the underdogs, well according to rankings, so I think we can surprise them a little bit. They’re not expecting much from us so I think we can use that to our advantage.”
Bauer wins championship
Northeast Dubois junior Reece Bauer was victorious on Wednesday afternoon in Jasper as his 6-2, 6-2 victory over Bloomfield’s Turner Royal clinched his sectional championship title in the individual singles tournament.
Bauer defeated Paoli’s Ashton Minton 6-3, 6-3 on Tuesday afternoon in the semifinal before defeating Royal on Wednesday. Bauer advanced to the individual regional tournament after defeating Barr-Reeve’s Kayden Graber in the sectional semifinal. The Jeep junior finished 18-2 at the No. 1 singles position this season.
He will now advance to the regional round of the individual tournament at Bedford North Lawrence on Saturday, October 13. His opponent has yet to be decided.
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