Prep Tennis: Jasper boys hoping for redemption

By JOHNATHAN BENTLEY, Eagle Sports Editor
Posted 2/8/18

The state tennis tournament was merely a formality.

Jasper’s boys were going to show up to Decatur, blow through the competition and leave with yet another championship trophy.

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Prep Tennis: Jasper boys hoping for redemption

Posted

The state tennis tournament was merely a formality.

Jasper’s boys were going to show up to Decatur, blow through the competition and leave with yet another championship trophy.

By the end of the first day of the state tournament, it was clear that the alleged formality wasn’t going to be so easy. The Vikings found themselves in an unfamiliar spot — playing catch up.

Jasper never did catch up and that state championship trophy is now at Florence High School.

“We went over there to get our trophy. We were just going to take it and leave, and we just got shown up,” senior Tyler Banks said. “We remember that. We want to move on from it, but then again, we want to keep it in the back of our mind. We don’t like to lose.”

Not only did the Vikings not take home the blue map trophy — awarded to the state champion — they didn’t take home a trophy at all, finishing in third place.

Rather than taking a state championship-or-bust mentality this season, Jasper coach Christian Matthews is shaking things up for 2018.

“Last year our goal was to win state. We felt like we were good enough to do that, and I think we got complacent in practice. This year we are focusing on being the best we can be,” Matthews said.

“On the guys side, we don’t want to get set in our ways. We don’t want to get down to state and struggle if things don’t go our way. Last year a lot of little things went wrong and we ended up with a bad result. With the youth on our girls side (there isn’t a senior on the squad), we want to build to get better so for the next couple of years we can be contenders.”

The Lady Vikings lost three of their top six players from last year. Returning players include Morgan Aldridge, Mary Alice Pearson, Amelia Poolos, Lillian Griffin and Ellie Hayes. There are no seniors on the squad. Both Aldridge and Pearson are juniors.

“There are a lot of new girls. It’s kind of like starting a new program. We have a lot potential to grow. All the girls are talented,” said Pearson, who played at No. 5 singles last season.

“We have all been playing tennis for a long time and we have a great coaching staff around here,” said Aldridge, the No. 4 seed in 2017. “We definitely have possibilities. We just have to put our mind to it. We have to get to work, but we can do it. I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a good season.”

Jasper’s boys return their top seven players from last season — Banks, Ben Hicks, Mason Woodman, John Bertoldi, Jack Bowen, Grayson Barber and Jack Bryan.

Banks, Hicks, Bertoldi, Bowen and Ethan Walker are seniors on the team.

“We kind of have a log jam for some of the spots on the team,” said Matthews, adding that players will challenge each other for their seeding throughout the season.

“That’s something I changed up. I felt like we didn’t do well under pressure (last season). There is nothing more pressure packed than playing for your spot. We are going to be competitive this year. I think we had gotten away from that.”

Another change this season comes in Matthew’s assistant coach.

Oliver Wright, a member of multiple state championship teams as a member of the Vikings, will help out with the program.

“That will be a big addition. He’s been on the tennis court his whole life. His tennis IQ is really impressive. I’m excited to see how this pays off,” Matthews said.

Jasper is playing in the Trojan Classic at Muscle Shoals this week and will play its home opener against Pinson Valley on Tuesday.