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Koenen ‘everywhere’ in support of St. Charles East

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 10:41 p.m. CDT
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(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
St. Charles East's Jasper Koenen is the Kane County Chronicle Boys Tennis Player of the Year. Koenen will play for Michigan State next year.

Jasper Koenen wanted to attend St. Charles North like his older sisters did.

But when a boundary change instead routed Koenen to East, there was nothing lukewarm about his commitment to being a Saint.

Koenen, the Kane County Chronicle Boys Tennis Player of the Year, became the poster boy for St. Charles East, and not just because of his on-court dominance.

"I think after his four years at East, if he had to choose again, I would hope he would choose East," said Cooper Macek, one of Koenen's classmates and close friends.

No doubt about it.

Koenen, East's student council president, seemed to be omnipresent at school events and was just as persistent at encouraging others to support their fellow Saints in whatever was happening on campus.

Koenen's passion for all things fleur-de-lis fueled him during a senior year in which he became the school's all-time winningest tennis player, wrapping up his four-year run with a 114-15 record. 

"I think stepping on the court for St. Charles East each match and working toward getting the school record for the most match wins really motivated me the most this season," Koenen said.

A Michigan State recruit, Koenen went 31-2 as a senior, winning each of his matches in straight sets until dropping a quarterfinal match at the IHSA State Tournament to eventual state champion Edward Grabill of Hinsdale Central.

Koenen had beaten Grabill twice outside of high school tennis in the previous seventh months.

"I think he really came in as an underdog with nothing to lose, everything to gain," said Koenen, who was a 3-4 seed at the IHSA State Tournament. "He used that to his advantage and played really good tennis all weekend. I was kind of up and down a little but it was the most competitive match I played since my [back injury] in November. It was tough to see him go on to win the whole thing and know I was so close, but I was very happy for him."

Advancing to the last day of the three-day tournament for the second straight year – Koenen took fourth in the state as a junior – Koenen split a pair of matches on the final day, falling in the consolation semifinals to Lake Forest's Peter Tarwid.

Aside from a handful of elite players deep into the state draw, Koenen's opponents stood little chance. The sturdily built, 6-foot-5 Koenen wields a vast skill set to maximize his size advantage.

"What he can do with his physique is he's able to absorb and redirect the pace of opponents' balls and do what he wants with it, and make them play his game," East coach Rob Livermore said.

Watching Koenen overwhelm the opposition was a treat for Koenen's teammates, Livermore said.

"They love to watch his matches, more than anything else," Livermore said. "Especially younger guys.  … They're always hoping they can finish their match [early] so they can watch Jasper play just because they're in awe of the things he can do on the court. They're so impressed. For them, it's motivation and inspiring, 'Wow, a high school kid can play like that.' "

Koenen became a four-time sectional singles champion while also checking off one of his last remaining goals, winning the Upstate Eight Conference River singles title for the first time.

It's not uncommon for top high school players to forsake high school tennis in favor of private training. Koenen's love for his school – and his sport – demanded that he do both.

"I told myself freshman year I wanted to play all four years and play for my school, which is something my sisters (Annemijn and Liselot) and I have always done for St. Charles," Koenen said. "I think it made my time at East all the more special. I played all four years and achieved the things I have. It's really been overwhelming. I'm very lucky."

Koenen was deeply disappointed after his state quarterfinal loss to Grabill, yet instead of brooding in private, he spent that evening rooting on East's girls soccer team at a sectional match. 

Koenen was one of the best athletes roaming the halls at East, but considered each of his peers just as worthy of support. 

"He just tries to be everywhere," Macek said. "Even though he's this great tennis player, he doesn't let that get in his head. He knows he's a student here at East, and he likes to support his school."

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