Jays open tennis season today against Rolla

Jefferson City’s Sam Johnson returns a shot during a match last season. The Jays open the season today at home against Rolla.

Jefferson City’s Sam Johnson returns a shot during a match last season. The Jays open the season today at home against Rolla. Photo by News Tribune.

While the Jefferson City tennis team is full of young players, the Jays have two things going for them: There’s plenty of them, and they’re relatively experienced youngsters.

“Overall, we are still a very young team, as five of our current top-seven players are sophomores,” Jefferson City coach Henry Thompson said. “At the same time, we are also a very experienced team, as we return five of our top six singles players from a year ago.”

The top eight consists of just three seniors — No. 1 singles player Sam Johnson, No. 6 Rex Michitsch and No. 8 Ian Murphy — and four sophomores — No. 2 David Clausen, No. 3 David Steinmeyer, No. 4 Spencer Bone, No. 5 Isaac Roling and No. 7 Dalton Doyle.

“We have great senior leadership with Sam and Ian and Rex,” Thompson said. “And as the old saying goes, ‘The best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores.’ The good thing is they’ve been through the process.

“We threw them to the wolves as freshmen, but the experience they gained last year playing in tough matches will be a huge benefit to them this season.”

This season gets under way today, as the Jays host Rolla at 4 p.m. at Washington Park.

Other members of the squad include seniors Dallin Cardon, Jordan Cole and C.J. Kennedy, sophomores Dane Biesemeyer and Curtis Flood, and freshmen Josh Morris and Joe Willoh.

“This is a great group of student athletes who have worked extremely hard in the offseason improving their games,” Thompson said. “Top to bottom, this is one of the deepest tennis teams that has come through Jefferson City High School and this team’s strength is its depth.”

Having a team this deep could be a problem in some years, but Thompson said he’s fortunate to have some help in that regard.

“I’m very lucky this year because I have a new assistant, Mike Kopec,” Thompson said. “He is from Michigan and moved here this past summer. He was a varsity coach up there for several years, so he has a lot of experience to bring to the table.”

The preseason has been a bit of a battle, but the Jays have been able to overcome the weather woes by playing on the indoor courts at the YMCA.

“Obviously our main hurdle this year has been the weather, but we’re fortunate we have been able to get in the ‘Y’ a lot,” Thompson said. “Every team around here has been in the same boat. You can’t control the weather, you just have to work around it.”

The Jays were finally able to get outside during the past week, helping them make another adjustment.

“It’s two different playing conditions,” Thompson said. “And it’s nice because we have more courts when we’re outdoors, but at same time, we are very fortunate the Y was able to work with us and appreciate all they’ve done.”

During the last week, the Jays have been working hard on doubles in an attempt to find the sometimes elusive matchups that make the whole team better. And they’ll need every team to be playing its best, what with a new schedule this season.

“Coming off of last season, one of our main goals was to increase the difficulty of our schedule,” Thompson said. “I feel we have done that, as we have scheduled at least five dual matches against district champions from a year ago — two against Rock Bridge, the defending state champions; and against Rockhurst, the defending state runners-up; Glendale, a defending state quarterfinalist; and Joplin.

“If you look at our schedule, over the course of the first five days of April, we have dual matches (Rockhurst, Rock Bridge and Glendale). This is a tremendous upgrade in the difficulty of our schedule, and we feel we have all the pieces to compete against the teams on it. The schedule represents a great opportunity for our team.”

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