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Pair of Jackson tennis doubles teams headed to state tournament

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

JACKSON TWP.  You can double the doubles fun for the Jackson girls tennis team as it heads southwest to the Division I state tennis tournament.

For the second season in a row, the Polar Bears are sending a pair of doubles teams to the state level. Seniors Samantha Reese and Emma Henson are joined by sophomores Paige Reese and Madison Altman and both duos have the benefit of playing on the same big stage one year ago and knowing what comes with the opportunity.

Jackson's Emma Henson and Samantha Reese competes in Girls tennis Division I Doubles Sectional Semifinal at Jackson North Park Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

The Reese-Henson pairing has a 13-3 record through the district tournament, while the Altman-Reese team is 13-1 thus far. All four players also saw time playing in singles action this season, but have shown the ability to raise their games to new levels in doubles matches.

"We're fortunate that last year we had the same two teams And we're also very fortunate because you can only enter two doubles teams in postseason," head coach Jennifer Meister Janson said. "As an example, we lost to Hoover in the regular season and they're only sending one singles player down, so it's tough to accomplish."

Jackson's Samantha Reese competes in Girls tennis Division I Doubles Sectional Semifinal at Jackson North Park Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

Having two doubles teams still playing is both rare and beneficial for any team. On a micro level, it allows the Polar Bears to have two top-notch doubles teams practicing against one another.

In other years, if just one doubles team was still going in the postseason, Janson would have to step in and provide practice opposition with help from someone else she'd call up to come and practice.

Not only that, the four players have had the benefit of seeing great tennis in practice on a daily basis.

Jackson's Emma Henson competes in Girls tennis Division I Doubles Sectional Semifinal at Jackson North Park Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

"It's great competition ... they were first and second out of sectionals, then third and fourth at districts, so they're evenly matched and one team can't overpower the other," Janson said of the even level of competition between the two teams.

Another benefit of two doubles teams reaching Cincinnati for the state tournament is simple COVID-19 math. The pandemic has led state officials to limit attendance at the sectional and district tournaments to coaches, participating players and parents of players.

Jackson's Paige Reese (left) and Madison Altman celebrate a win against Hoover's Angelina Koinoglou and Izzy Warburton in Girls tennis Division I Sectional Semifinal at Jackson North Park Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

While the Polar Bears await word on whether those rules will be relaxed at the Lindbergh Family Tennis Center in Mason, they have the benefit of knowing that each player has three teammates who will be there, along with parents and two coaches.

"This year it's going to be the biggest benefit of it all," Janson said. "For them to have three teammates l to cheer them on during these COVID times is huge. For a team that has just one singles player, might just be one coach and their parents there."

The large Jackson contingent plans to follow its past state tournament slate of leaving Thursday morning, practicing at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, then enjoying dinner together in the evening.

Janson noted that the four players are good friends away from the court and relish the chance to share the experience with one another.

That experience includes playing in a venue that hosts professional tournaments and has seen some of the biggest names in tennis grace its courts.

"They get to play down in Mason at the same place where (Roger) Federer, (Rafael) Nadal and Serena Williams play," Janson said. "Playing on that grand center stage still has a huge effect and thee know they're fortunate to play in such an environment, but I think having played there before, that will help them confidence-wise to know that this is just another match."

The two teams are in opposite sides of the bracket, meaning they could only meet if both advance deep into the weekend. Still, as one of just three programs to send multiple doubles teams to the Division I state tournament, the Polar Bears are looking for strength in their numbers.