Columbus North seniors Isaac Jackson and Ben Mathew had no idea they would join together to be a match-point away from making the Individual Doubles State Finals when they met as seventh-graders at Northside Middle School.
Mathew was a singles player for most of his career before getting switched to play No. 1 doubles with Jackson to start his final year. Now, they are The Republic Boys Tennis Players of the year.
The duo posted a 20-8 record in a season that ended with a 3-6, 6-0, 7-5 loss to Josh Nelson and Jacob Luebbehusen of Floyd Central in the Bedford North Lawrence Individual Regional final.
“I was happy when I got the opportunity to play with Isaac,” Mathew said. “I knew we had a chance to be a really good team that could compete against the top teams in the state.”
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Jackson and Mathew had two match-points in the third set against the Highlander duo, but could not finish it off to put themselves in the state finals. Floyd Central’s doubles team ended up being state runner-up, and North coach Kendal Hammel said he thinks his two players would have been able to go just as far if they would have been able to close on one of those match-points.
Jackson said he knew they had chance to be pretty good after beating Bloomington North’s No. 1 doubles team at the Jeffersonville Tournament early in the season.
“It felt really good because we’ve been losing to Bloomington North so much throughout my whole career because they’ve had such a really strong team all four years we’ve been there,” Jackson said. “So for us to beat them and advance, it was kind of a bitter sweet moment because our team lost and you want to be there with five other guys. But it was fun for us.”
Jackson and Mathew fell to Nelson and Luebbehusen 6-4, 6-4 earlier in the season. Winning that first set 6-3 in the regional final boosted their confidence for the rest of the match, Jackson said.
“I feel really proud of that match, even though we lost because we had such a great first set,” Mathew said. “Our coach said it was one of the best first sets we played. We showed true aggression. We put away shots that we needed to. We won points that we needed to win.”
The Highlanders found their rhythm in the second set and then found a way to take the third. The Bull Dogs duo still managed to accomplish a lot this season.
Hammel said they started to play really well once they learned the ropes of playing doubles together. Hammel said they complimented each other’s game, with Jackson playing toward the baseline and Mathew liking to play the net more off of Jackson’s ground serves.
Mathew said this year was his the most fun he’s had throughout his four years. Playing doubles was something he never thought he could do, but he said he is so happy he did it.
“It’s fast paced. It definitely suits to my style of play,” Mathew said. “We played some really good teams, and we beat a lot of good teams. We have a lot of good memories, and we got a lot better pretty much every match we played.”
The Floyd Central match ends the athletic careers for both players since nether of them are planning on playing in college. They both with play recreationally, but will focused on academics when they head to college next year.
Mathew’s college list has dwindled down to rival schools Purdue and Indiana University. He will study computer science if he becomes a Hoosier or engineering as a Boilermaker.
Jackson is undecided on his college choice, but knows he wants to major in finance or economics.
The Republic 2017 All-Area Boys Tennis Team:
Isaac Jackson, Columbus North: The senior went 20-8 at No. 1 doubles.
Ben Mathew, Columbus North: The senior went 20-8 at No. 1 doubles.
Kevin Lin, Columbus North: The junior went 14-11 at No. 1 singles.
Joey Zhao, Columbus North: The sophomore went 16-9 at No. 2 singles.
Akshaya Sabapathy, Columbus North: The senior went 19-6 at No. 3 singles.
Chris Ruble, Columbus North: The senior went 20-5 at No. 2 doubles.
Adam Saad, Columbus North: The sophomore went 20-5 at No. 2 doubles.
Sam Meek, Hauser: The senior went 13-5 at No. 1 singles.
Alex Gross, Hauser: The senior went 15-3 at No. 1 doubles.
Jacob Johnson, Hauser: The senior went 15-3 at No. 1 doubles.
Coltan Henderson, Edinburgh: The junior went 8-6 at No. 1 singles.
Brown County: Abe Oliver, Elijah Roush, Chase Watson. Columbus East: Luke Miller, Jackson Stevens. Edinburgh: Ryan Gaston. Hauser: Justin Compton, Jacob Rudd, Ethan Wallace. Jennings County: Weston Miller, Thomas Schuler.