Twenty foes have tried and failed to stop St. Charles East boys tennis player Justin Bowman.
Bowman and the Saints hope that the senior’s balky back doesn’t pick up the slack on behalf of his overmatched opponents.
Bowman, East’s No. 2 singles player, is off to a sparkling 20-0 start this season but had to sit out conference matches Monday against St. Charles North and Tuesday against Geneva after experiencing lower-back spasms during Saturday’s Blackhawk Invitational. Bowman said he had similar back woes last year.
“I would like to get back as soon as I can but I’m laid-back right now because I’ve had this pain before and I know what to do, how to get rid of it,” Bowman said.
Bowman, who aims to become a four-time state qualifier for the Saints later this month, plays in the No. 2 spot for East because of the presence of hulking junior Jasper Koenen, one of the elite players in all of the west suburbs.
Whenever Bowman’s name pops up, people are quick to note that he’d be a strong, No. 1 caliber player at most schools.
“But having Jasper is great for our school,” Bowman said. “It helps our team out a lot. During practices, it’s great to hit with him. He’s made me a lot better player just hitting with him.”
Koenen, who works out with Bowman at a Hinsdale club during the high school offseason, feels similarly about Bowman.
“It’s really great having him on the team for us to have a 1-2 punch against other teams, and for us both to be doing well,” Koenen said after his latest dominating outing, 6-0, 6-0 over Geneva’s Nick Huang on Tuesday in Geneva. “It gives us an advantage against other teams. You only need to win four matches to win the team match and if we can provide two of those, it’s always really nice.”
Bowman and Koenen were both undefeated on the season until last week, when Koenen dropped a three-setter against powerhouse New Trier.
In fact, Bowman was the lone Saint to win that day – the highlight of his season to date.
“Everyone lost on my team and I was still out there in the third set trying to pull off one win for our team, and I got it,” said Bowman, whose injury could prevent him from winning the 10 additional matches he needs to hit the 100-mark for his Saints career.
Bowman is continuing his family’s tradition with Saints tennis. Older sisters Lauren and Erin played for the Saints, with Erin going on to compete collegiately at Carroll University. Bowman plans to play college tennis next year at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
East coach Rob Livermore said Bowman’s years of absorbing the sport are apparent.
“He really knows what ball to play and where to hit it and how to make his opponent give him the ball that he wants so he can win the point,” Livermore said.
Bowman went 3-0 in the tournament Saturday at West Aurora. But it’s those kinds of long days that put his back in more jeopardy.
“I would say multiple matches and longer matches,” Bowman said. “Especially when my opponent hits the ball harder, I feel the pain more coming out.”
The way he has played this spring, it’s the only obstacle for which Bowman still needs to find an answer.