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Jager Juracek, Luke Jerke display strong chemistry for Mitch

Apr. 26—MITCHELL — Mitchell boys tennis coach Pat Moller believes there's no secret to being good at the sport. It's all about working harder than everyone else.

It's how Jager Juracek and Luke Jerke climbed to the top of the flight chart.

The two upperclassmen have helped propel the Kernels to a 12-4 dual record on the season, highlighted by 10 consecutive dual victories at Hitchcock Park to open the year.

Juracek, a senior, is 7-9 in matches at No. 1 singles, while Jerke, a junior, has a 12-5 match record playing at No. 2 singles. The duo are 7-4 in doubles competition, paired together at the top flight.

Although the Kernels are in a better position this season as opposed to last year, both players feel there were matches that slipped away and the team is poised to step up even further.

"I feel we're kind of sitting where we're supposed to be," Jerke said, "but I think we need to get to that next level, get a little higher out of the effort we put in, and our play in general. At this point, we just all need to step it up."

"We lost some matches that we should've won," Juracek added. "We didn't play our best in those matches, so we just got to bump it up to the next level."

A lot of the season has been about being able to improve from one match to the next, with the schedule limiting practice time to work on the finer details. While Mitchell has shown improvement as a team this season, there's still room to grow.

"We haven't played our best tennis of the year yet," Moller said. "And you want to save that for the end. We certainly got some room to improve, but they're continuing to improve, and that's what you want to do."

In tennis, the top flights generally feature the most well-rounded players, and it's where both Juracek and Jerke were a year ago. Juracek finished last season with a 16-10 match record at No. 2 singles, while Jerke was 11-13 at No. 1 singles.

Coming into this season, Moller decided to change things up at the top, moving Juracek into the top flight to best serve the rest of the Kernels, and having two players on the roster with experience at No. 1 singles. The move exemplified the kind of people both Juracek and Jerke are while embracing their opportunities on the court.

"These two have an incredibly high character, and they were willing to put the team first," Moller said. "They were willing to accept whatever role that I thought was best, and they just embrace every opportunity that they're given. You gotta hand it to them."

From years of playing one another since both were in middle school, their friendly matches were always going to be close due to their set skills and ability to match each other on the court, knowing it ultimately wasn't going to matter where they were placed.

Showcasing strong chemistry when playing either against or together in doubles, Juracek and Jerke feel comfortable with pointing out misses or miscues to each other, along with pushing the other to perform better.

"Every time I beat him, I'm always hyped and give him a little bit about it, but he does the same right back to me," Juracek said. "But we're going to be close no matter how many times we play."

"We're always trying to perform better than each other," Jerke added. "Our chemistry is to the point where we can give each other a bit of a hard time, and it doesn't kill our game. It's been really good to be playing together for so long."

In doubles competition, Juracek and Jerke complement each other with different skills and traits.

Jerke supplies the power on the serves, and his favorite shot is to play an overhead spike that results in the ball bouncing once before going over the fence. Juracek also has plenty of power, but his finesse around the net volleying makes it a challenge for opponents to play the duo.

"If you talk to any other doubles team in the state, none of them would say that playing Luke and Jager is going to be an easy match," Moller said. "They're going to have to play their best tennis, and I don't think anybody would be shocked if they came out on the top end (at state)."

Given their skill set when it comes to doubles, each player has learned from the other at various points. Juracek, who is unwilling to give up on any point while the ball's in play, has helped Jerke develop his skills at the net, an area he also continues to work on in singles competition.

"(Jager) helps me a lot with keeping my feet moving up there and stepping forward into the ball since I step back a lot," Jerke said. "His consistency is a lot better than mine, so I learned to try and be more consistent for our benefit so we can win matches."

Showcasing the ability to learn and develop strong bonds, the duo have formed an unmistakable rapport with each other and the rest of the Kernel tennis players. On top of it all, the goal for each match and each day of the season never wavers, and one Juracek follows as he prepares to close out his prep career.

"I try to do the best I can each match, but otherwise just have fun with the team," Juracek said. "It's my last year. I can't, and I won't, hold anything back."