Jays open tennis season today at Rolla

David Clausen returns this season for the Jefferson City Jays. They’ll open the year today at Rolla.

David Clausen returns this season for the Jefferson City Jays. They’ll open the year today at Rolla. Photo by Kris Wilson.

Last year, the Jefferson City boys tennis team went through a murderer’s row of a schedule, facing tons of the state’s elite programs.

So did they take a step back after running the gauntlet, taking some time to catch their breath?

Not even close.

The Jays have stepped up the competition level another notch this time around, hoping to take advantage of a deep, veteran squad.

“Our schedule is very, very challenging,” Jefferson City head coach Henry Thompson said. “We have a lot of matches against district champions from last year. But when you’ve got a team like Rock Bridge in your district, which has been to 12 Final Fours in a row, you’ve got to have a schedule like that to prepare our team to have a chance to challenge them.”

The Bruins, who have won four of the last six Class 2 state championships, fell in last year’s title match to Rockhurst. Which, not coincidentally, is another team on the Jays’ schedule.

“We finished 13-6 last year and four of our six losses were to Rock Bridge and Rockhurst, which were the two teams playing for the state title,” Thompson said. “Last year, our schedule prepared us well and we definitely wanted to do that this year. I think this schedule is even more difficult with the teams and tournaments we’ve added.”

The Jays jump into that schedule this week with four matches in five days. They get things started today at Rolla before going to Camdenton on Tuesday, returning Thursday for the home opener against Waynesville, and finally wrapping the week up Friday at Rockhurst.

“I think the kids are definitely ready to face other opponents than their teammates,” Thompson said.

But the three weeks of preseason practice have been necessary this time around. After the top seven, which boasts four returnees, the remaining 19 on the Jays’ 26-player roster are a lot of new faces.

“A lot of the time so far, especially with those newcomers, has been spent on seeing how they stack up,” Thompson said. “We feel like in the couple weeks we’ve done that, we’ve done a fairly decent job of figuring out one through 26.

“We’ll continue to do challenge matches throughout the next few weeks and kind of see how it shakes out. As of right now, we feel confident with the lineup we’ve got.”

There was no doubt when it came to the No. 1 spot in the lineup, as junior David Clausen has not only staked a claim as the best on the team, but one of the best players in the Midwest due to his results in United States Tennis Association events since the end of the last high-school season.

“He really committed himself this offseason, traveling all over the midwest to different USTA tournaments and facing a lot of really, really good competition,” Thompson said. “He just dedicated himself to becoming a really good tennis player. Those efforts definitely will pay off for him as we go through our schedule.”

Clausen is one of three juniors at the top of the lineup entering their third year of varsity play, followed by David Steinmeyer at No. 2 and Spencer Bone at No. 3.

“We pretty much we have the same team two years in a row, which is very good for us,” Thompson said.

At No. 4 is another junior, Dalton Doyle.

“Last year he got a lot of experience playing varsity doubles, and he and Spencer actually had a win last year in doubles at No. 3 against Rock Bridge, which is a very big accomplishment,” Thompson said. “That experience will help him out this year.”

The No. 5 spot is held by — what else? — a junior, as Dane Biesemeyer returns after joining the varsity as a sophomore.

“He really committed himself to becoming a tennis player in the offseason,” Thompson said. “He was in there practicing at the (YMCA) every day, working on his game. That’s going to impact our team in a positive way.”

The final varsity singles spot is held by freshman Joey Mendez.

“Really good talent, the sky’s the limit for him as far as what he can become,” Thompson said.

Others who could see time on the varsity throughout the year include sophomore Josh Morris, junior Kader Fees, sophomore Joe Willow and freshman Josh Jay.

As is usually the case, the question marks come when it comes to who will make up the doubles teams. But thanks to Jefferson City being on spring break last week, the Jays had time to concentrate on that issue.

“With spring break and not having any matches scheduled, it really allowed us to hone in on some doubles lineups, trying different combinations.

“… There’s an old saying that your team is only as good as your No. 3 doubles team. That certainly is true and we’re trying to figure out, for the three varsity doubles teams, what our best lineups are. We know the kids who are going to factor into those three spots, it’s just finding out what those combinations are.”

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