David Hutt has had several talented players in his tenure as Jackson High School’s tennis coach. He’s the first to say it takes more than one star to continue a streak that has seen the Timberwolves win 86 consecutive conference matches — a streak that’s in its sixth season.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a player as dominant as Ben Mietzner.
Mietzner has been stellar his first three seasons at Jackson, winning back-to-back district championships to clinch berths in the past two Class 4A state tournaments.
“He’s a security blanket,” Hutt said. “It’s really nice to be able to rely on him and his leadership. He wants to be there. When you have your top player that wants to be at practice and all the events, it’s really nice. Going into most matches, you go in with the confidence that you’re probably going to win his match.”
Mietzner, who has been playing tennis since he was 7 years old, is a key to Jackson’s success. While the Timberwolves have several strong players — including returning all-conference first-teamers Josh Yi and Bence Dare, as well as the doubles team of Alex Olson and Nicholas Magarelli — Mietzner is their No. 1 singles player.
“We’ve definitely had a lot of success,” Mietzner said. “We’ve always had so many good players on our team. And lots of depth. It’s not an individual sport like people think it is. Having great players on the team helps us win matches.”
Hutt has a phrase to describe what makes Mietzner so difficult to beat.
“In tennis, they use a word: ‘Grinder.’ That term would fit him,” Hutt said. “He grinds out points. He’ll do whatever it takes to win. … He gets his serve in consistently and for our league, he’s just a pest for someone to beat.”
When asked to identify his strengths, Mietzner cited his focus and determination.
“I’m just able to keep the rally going and not make too many mistakes,” he said. “I just find their weakness and attack it. I just try to keep the rally going. I’m just able to not make as many mistakes as my opponent.”
Snohomish head coach Dick Jansen, whose Panthers have to face Mietzner and the Timberwolves twice a year, said the Jackson senior is one of the best in the conference.
“Ben is a tough player. He’s kind of the paragon of Wesco tennis,” Jansen said. “He’s the No. 1 kid. … In our little pond here, we have a few great players. Ben’s definitely one of them.”
It isn’t just his tennis savvy that makes Mietzner so valuable to the Timberwolves. Hutt praised the Mietzner for his leadership and willingness to help his teammates.
“For me, as a coach, he’s a fun-loving kid,” Hutt said. “You can joke around with him. He has determination, which is huge. … He just does a great job. He’s more than just a leader. He’s a nice kid. He’s willing to help. He’ll hit with any kid in the program.
“If I ask him to go hit with a kid that can’t even hold a racket, he’ll go hit with him.”
That kind of teamwork has fueled the Timberwolves’ long winning streak, though Hutt noted it might be beneficial for Jackson to lose occasionally and end the “ridiculous winning streak.”
“At Jackson, we’ve won a lot,” Hutt said. “We’ve won so much that I don’t really talk about a whole lot of goals. To be honest, I told the kids we need to lose more because they would learn another character trait of how to hold composure in defeat.”
But Mietzner and his teammates don’t want the streak to end on their watch.
“We want to win, but we want to have fun and enjoy this year,” he said. “The main goal is just to keep having fun.
“I just want the team to have a really good year.”