Timberwolves build on their long history of success
As it usually does, Jackson boys tennis team heads into districts a favorite
As a team, the Timberwolves didn't lose a match this season — or the past four years for that matter. They are 151-9 in the past 10 seasons and an even more impressive 112-4 in the last seven years. Their run included a team state championship in 2010-11.
The success has come for the individuals as well. In 2010-11, the same year as the team state title, Michael Chamerski won the 4A state singles championship and Mitch Williamson placed fifth. Neither player is still at Jackson, but the players that are had their share of success this past regular season. Sophomore Ben Mietzner, juniors Peter Cung, Grant Follis and Luke George, and seniors Everet Wang and James Okubo all helped the Timberwolves continue their great tradition this season. All six players have played singles at one point or another this year and between them all there were just two losses.
For a look at the brackets for this week's district tournaments, click here.
Mietzner is the only player with a blemish on his record with two losses to Cascade's Patrick Chung. But it's hard to be too upset at the defeats, Chung is the top-ranked singles player in Wesco.
Okubo and Wang are also the first two players at Jackson to go through their high-school careers without suffering a regular season defeat.
“It's kind of different actually,” Okubo said. “At first, it was always knowing about the past with (coach David) Hutt and how he's always striving for the undefeated season. It was just kind of different because it was so surprising that first year when we had all those seniors and us and we all went undefeated.”
The players said they don't feel any added pressure because of the unbeaten record.
“Just do your best out there,” Wang said. “Mr. Hutt doesn't tell us 'You have to win or you are walking home in the rain.'”
Now that the regular season is over and the 4A District 1 boys singles and doubles tournaments begin today, the focus shifts to having a good showing at districts and trying to advance to state.
For the Timberwolves No. 1 singles player, Mietzner, it could be another chance to knock off Chung. Mietzner goes into the district tournament with the No.2 seed from Wesco South, hoping for an opportunity to face Chung, the South's No. 1 seed in the district championship.
“He's a tough player,” Mietzner said. “He's just really strong physically and mentally. I just have to try and beat him some way. I've got to find a way.”
Mietzner lost to Chung in two sets the first time the two faced each other this season. The second time around Mietzner won the first set, but Chung rallied to win the final two sets to take the match.
“It's been pretty close in the rallies,” Mietzner said. “During the match the scores kind of look differently.”
For most of the regular season, Wang and Okubo alternated between the No. 3 and No. 4 singles spots for Jackson, but in districts they will play as doubles partners, taking the No. 2 seed from the Wesco South into the tournament. Cung spent most of the season as the No. 2 singles player, but he too will switch to doubles for districts, teaming up with Follis, who spent most of the season in the No. 1 doubles spot for the Timberwolves. Cung and Follis have the South's No. 1 seed going into districts.
The transition shouldn't be too difficult for Wang, Okubo and Cung. All three players played doubles periodically throughout the season as well as in practice to prepare for the switch going into districts.
“It's obviously a different game,” Cung said. “Throughout the practices, during the season and before the season, we actually practiced doubles a lot most of the time and we do singles on our own time outside of the school. So through practice we actually go pretty prepared.”
With Cung and Follis being the South's No. 1 seed and Wang and Okubo having the No. 2 seed, there is a chance that the two teams could square off for the district championship, something that the Timberwolves players are looking forward to.
“I guess it's human for us to have a little pride even when it comes to playing with friends like that,” Cung said. “Obviously in a competitive environment you are looking to win, but with them, we have played together a lot in practice. When it comes to matches it reminds us that outside of this one match we can still be friends.”
That said, don't think that the winning team won't exercise bragging rights if need be.
“If we need to we will bring it up,” Cung said with a laugh.
While most teams have players who transition from singles to doubles for the postseason, George will play a different role. After having teamed up with Follis for most of the season at No. 1 doubles, George will switch to singles for districts, taking the No. 4 seed from the South into the tournament.
“It is different, but I think I transitioned really well,” George said of his move from doubles to singles. “It wasn't really uncomfortable or anything. It was nice having the whole court to myself and just being able to run anything down. It wasn't too much of a big deal.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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