Blue Jays lose No. 1, working toward team success this season
The Jamestown High School boys tennis team kicked off practices on Aug. 8.
JAMESTOWN — John Ness is hoping that two practices a day for two weeks in 90-degree heat is going to prepare the Jamestown High School tennis team for the next nine weeks.
So far — five days in — it seems to be working.
"Yesterday we were doing drills and it was hot," Ness said. "I was the sweatiest one out there so these guys will be good. They are doing good."
Ness and the slew of tennis team members kicked off their season with the annual two-a-day practices on Aug. 8. The team's first competition of the season is slated for Aug. 19 in Minot. First serve of the tourney is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.
The Jays lost their former No. 1 placeholder Gage Orr to graduation. Orr along with now-senior Mason Lunzman finished fifth in the doubles portion of the 2021 Class A State Tennis Tournament.
"Gage is gone — he did a great job for us and we're going to miss him," Ness said. "I believe Mason and Max (Fronk) and a couple of other seniors will have no problem filling in as far as leaders go.
"We've got some young guys who have been playing tennis this summer who have gotten a lot better from playing a lot," he said. "The guys that were on the lower part of our varsity and upper part of our junior varsity last year have definitely gotten bigger and a lot better. I was impressed by how they came to practice ready to roll."
Ness said the Blue Jays had some competition between team members as soon as practice started this season. Kai Backen, Adam Sortland, Cameron Anderson, Kane Schmidt and Luke LeFevre have all been battling for one of the top six spots this season.
The Blue Jays welcomed a dozen middle-schoolers to the court this season and while they will likely not compete for varsity spots, Ness is glad to see more and more interest generated for the sport of tennis.
"We'll never draw as many people as the football team does," Ness said. "Tennis is kind of one of those sports that gets laughed off until you play somebody who knows how to play tennis. It's not for everybody but if you know how, it's a great sport to get into."
While it might be one of the sports that attracts fewer athletes, it takes no small amount of skill to dominate the Bollinger Courts, and the 19 boys who signed up this fall got a taste of what it takes to be one of the best in the state during the first couple of weeks of practice.
"We're trying to do a little more conditioning this year because we're relatively young still and I want to make sure that is not the reason that we don't play well," Ness said. "We do a lot of drills that involve getting to balls.
"This year we are going to try to stay in the point for as long as we can. We're going to try and make sure they are the ones making mistakes," he said. "That's my goal this year is for them to get to the next ball, never be out of a point and make sure our minds are focused on the point at hand at all times."
Those in the West Region aren't going to make it easy on the Blue Jays.
"Minot is looking like they'll have a tough program for the next decade or so," Ness said. "They are really deep even into the fifth and sixth graders. They are always in it. Paul Christian will have his Mandan guys ready to go and Bismarck Legacy is always tough competition."
Regardless of how the next nine weeks unfold, Ness is just eager to get back in the fall sports routine and hopefully watch his kids improve swing by swing.
"Good luck to the rest of the fall sports as well," Ness said. "I am excited for all the sports to get 'er going."