Prince is king of his court

Published 1:39 am Thursday, May 28, 2015

PROCTORVILLE — Most players or teams spend the regular season playing games and trying to become tournament ready.

Jason Prince has learned to get ready for the postseason without the benefit of a regular season.

With no team at Fairland, the Dragons’ junior tennis standout is unable to play a regular season schedule. But that hasn’t stopped him from not only playing in the postseason but reaching the state tournament.

Prince beat Cameron Wiandt of Coshocton in the Division II district finals on Saturday at Ohio University and will now play Brayden Streng of Sandusky in the opening round of the state tournament beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday at the Ohio State University outdoor tennis courts.

This marks the second straight year Prince has reached the state tournament without the benefit of the regular season.

Prince prepares himself for the postseason by playing at the Teays Valley Tennis Center in West Virginia. He gets instruction from Bob Mooney who works at the center.

“I practice with Bob Mooney two or three times a week and sometimes with the other kids,” said Prince. “I just practice and wait for the district.”

In the district tournament, Prince beat Ryan Jones of Wheelersburg 6-3, 6-1 and Brent Keating of Dover 6-2, 6-4 to reach the finals. He then blitzed Wiandt 6-0, 6-0.

“The first two matches I was playing well, but I knew I could make lesser mistakes. The last matches I played some of my best tennis,” said Prince.

The tournament gets started at 9 a.m. with the first round of the Division I players. The Division II 32-man field will start at approximately 10:30.

The experience of playing in the state tournament last year should help Prince.

“It should be less pressure. I’ve been there before. It’ll be easier to play,” said Prince.

If Prince beats Streng — the sophomore is making his first state appearance — in the first round, he would advance to play the winner of Asher Hirsch of Cincinnati Country Day and Zach Teffner of Cortland Lakeview in the second round.

Prince played Teffner in a match last year. However, Hirsch is the two-time defending state champion.

“I think I’ve made improvements and I’ve got a lot smarter. Streng has definitely improved, but I’m playing a lot different. I felt I should have gotten out of the first round last year if I was thinking better,” said Prince.

Because Fairland doesn’t have a tennis team, Prince did not play at all his freshman year.

However, Prince found out that he could play on his own as long as he had a coach. His father Rick stepped in to be the official coach.

“Dad had to take coaching classes. We didn’t know that was a possibility until my sophomore year,” said Prince.

It seemed only fitting that his father serve as his coach since he was the one who caused Justin to be bitten by the tennis bug.

“I’ve been playing tennis with my dad since I was seven or eight. I got competitive about the time I turned 12,” said Prince. “He always liked to go out and play around on the tennis court and I just got interested in playing.

Not only is Prince happy to be playing at high school tennis, he would enjoy a chance to extend his career.

“I’d like to play college tennis. It would be fun, but I haven’t put any thought into where I’d go,” said Prince.

“The first two matches I was playing well, but I knew I could make lesser mistakes. The last matches I played some of my best tennis,” said Prince.

The tournament gets started at 9 a.m. with the first round of the Division I players. The Division II 32-man field will start at approximately 10:30.

The experience of playing in the state tournament last year should help Prince.

“It should be less pressure. I’ve been there before. It’ll be easier to play,” said Prince.

If Prince beats Streng — the sophomore is making his first state appearance — in the first round, he would advance to play the winner of Asher Hirsch of Cincinnati Country Day and Zach Teffner of Cortland Lakeview in the second round.

Prince played Teffner in a match last year. However, Hirsch is the two-time defending state champion.

“I think I’ve made improvements and I’ve got a lot smarter. Streng has definitely improved, but I’m playing a lot different. I felt I should have gotten out of the first round last year if I was thinking better,” said Prince.

Because Fairland doesn’t have a tennis team, Prince did not play at all his freshman year.

However, Prince found out that he could play on his own as long as he had a coach. His father Rick stepped in to be the official coach.

“Dad had to take coaching classes. We didn’t know that was a possibility until my sophomore year,” said Prince.

It seemed only fitting that his father serve as his coach since he was the one who caused Justin to be bitten by the tennis bug.

“I’ve been playing tennis with my dad since I was seven or eight. I got competitive about the time I turned 12,” said Prince. “He always liked to go out and play around on the tennis court and I just got interested in playing.”

Not only is Prince happy to be playing at high school tennis, he would enjoy a chance to extend his career.

“I’d like to play college tennis. It would be fun, but I haven’t put any thought into where I’d go,” said Prince.