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updated: 4/3/2014 5:59 PM

Koenen aims big in final year at St. Charles East

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  • Jasper Koenen of St. Charles East competes at the state boys tennis tournament Saturday

      Jasper Koenen of St. Charles East competes at the state boys tennis tournament Saturday
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

From where Jasper Koenen sat, all was sunny and the spring beckoned with opportunity.

Of course he was on spring break, sitting in a deck chair in Ocean Point, Fla. The point is, the 6-foot-5 Dutch tennis star from St. Charles East was in a good space to reflect upon his final high school season before he continues his career at Michigan State.

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"This is a very important year," said the friendly and verbose Koenen, who will join older sisters Annemijn (a Missouri graduate) and Liselot (Georgetown) as a Division I player.

Born to tennis-playing parents Henk-Jen and Irene, Jasper was born in Belgium but spent his toddler years in his parents' native Holland before moving first to Louisiana then, when he was 10, to St. Charles on the Fourth of July.

"Right when the fireworks were going off," he said.

Jasper, 17, aims to end his senior year with a bang, vying for a title at Hersey High School on May 31. But he could also say his junior year was crucial considering the import of his college decision. He capped his 2013 high school schedule with a fourth-place state finish at No. 1 singles, his position all four years at St. Charles East.

Outside of Saints coach Rob Livermore's tennis program, Koenen spends the bulk of his court time training with private coach Barry King out of Score Tennis & Fitness in Countryside. Though Koenen has amassed a prep record of 86-13 with three sectional championships and two all-state finishes at St. Charles East, he makes a lot of hay on the United States Tennis Association circuit.

The USTA has ranked him as high as top-five in the Midwest at 18 and under, he said; the Tennis Recruiting Network currently lists him sixth in Illinois and 13th in the Great Lakes region.

It was at a USTA event last spring that Koenen earned one of his greatest victories -- and set in place a goal for this high school season.

He and doubles partner Davis Crocker of Kalamazoo, Mich., won the 18s doubles title at the USTA National Open Tournament in Grand Blanc, Mich. Trouble was, that came on the same weekend as the Upstate Eight Conference Tournament, which despite reaching the finals at No. 1 singles both freshman and sophomore seasons he has yet to win.

"Last year was a very important year for me in terms of college coaches seeing me play and I didn't think that was a tournament I could miss," he said.

Having committed to Michigan State one day after he took his official visit, on Sept. 13 of last year, leaving William & Mary and Big Ten schools Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Northwestern out of luck, that issue has been settled and the strapping right-hander can focus on Saints tennis.

Soccer playing pals Cooper Macek and T.C. Hull have helped convince him of the importance of vying for a conference title.

"Being a senior this year, one of my roles on and off the court is being a leader," Koenen said. "It seems like a good example for those (underclass) kids because I won't be there next year."

So, back to the start, looking ahead ...

With 86 career victories as a Saint, Koenen is targeting the magic number of 100, seemingly a certainty. Even 2013 graduate Justin Bowman's program record of 106 wins appears in reach.

Falling in line would be a UEC team championship, a fourth straight sectional title and then, naturally, a state singles title. Interestingly, the returning Hinsdale Central duo who beat Koenen in the 2013 championship semifinals (Martin Joyce) and third-place match (Michael Lorenzini) both train with him at Score Tennis & Fitness.

He said there's no hard feelings, despite the tough competition.

"For tennis there's no classes, there are 128 people for singles, 128 people for doubles in the whole state of Illinois. If you win state you're number one in the state, it's not like you're the state champion in 1A or 2A," said Koenen, who admitted that when frustrated on the court he'll unleash some choice words in his native Dutch.

"I'm taking it one step at a time, I'm not thinking about state right now. I want to, at first, get through the conference, get through the sectional then focus on state."

It's a small wonder he can focus on anything at all, as busy as he is. Koenen is an achiever who is Student Council president, a member of the National Honor Society. He acts as an intern for two class periods each day with Lisa Dandre, assistant principal of Student Life. He broadcasts St. Charles East's morning announcements with Haydyn Jones, a No. 1 doubles player on the girls team.

In between all this he tries to squeeze time in with his buddies, go to the movies, relax with family.

"It's nice to catch up on my sleep, too," Koenen said from his roost in Florida, where for a couple more days he could do that before commanding the baseline again.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

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