For the Love of the Game: Boys tennis team fosters strong team leadership, hopes to qualify more athletes for State match


Meghan Kennedy, Staff Writer

The sweat drips off his forehead as the sun beams down upon his face.
Walking slowly back to the baseline, he contemplates his next move.
After a few deep breaths, he gets in serving position.
As he bounces the tennis ball, he stares down his opponent as an unbreakable concentration overcomes him.
He gracefully tosses the ball in the air and brings the racquet around in full swing.
After a breathless moment, the two come in contact, and the ball soars across the court.
The opponent desperately chases after the ball, but does not succeed in returning it over the net.
Senior Andy Porter said he has enjoyed tennis because he has made friendships with people he otherwise would not have met.
“It’s really loose during practice and in between matches,” he said. “When someone’s on the court during a match, everyone goes over to support him. We have team dinners throughout the year, and we all just hang out and get to know each other better.”
Junior Anil Patel said the group has strong team chemistry.
“Everyone gets along very well with each other and are good friends,” he said. “Especially for doubles, that’s very important for chemistry to be there. Though tennis is an individual sport, a good team is definitely a focus and very important.”
Porter said the time commitment for tennis varies on level of play.
“For school, it really isn’t that much,” he said. “Most guys who take it seriously will go to their clubs either after practice or in the mornings to hit with their coaches.”
As a captain, Porter said he runs fitness and indoor practices and sets the tone.
“For tennis, I think I’m more laid back most of the time,” he said. “There are some times when I think we need to do more work, so I’ll make us run more and work harder. Coach [Nelson Elliot] sets up the matchups on who is going to play against each other, but, other than that, it’s basically all athlete-led.”
Patel said the team has strong leadership, which helps guide the younger athletes.
“We have a team captain that runs the warm up and keeps everybody on task,” he said. “The older or more experienced players get respect from the less experienced and are listened to well. I never see anybody complaining about being bossed around. There is a good sense of everyone’s role on the team.”
Patel said his responsibility of being an upperclassman is to make sure everyone stays focused.
“I mainly just make sure everyone is on task at practice and lead by example because lowerclassmen will look up to the upperclassmen,” he said. “I answer any questions they have for me. I just stay flexible with my time to help them with strategy or technical things. I stay very open to giving advice.”
Porter said his favorite memories of tennis are qualifying for State sophomore year, being on the court every day and just having fun.
Patel won State his freshman year.
“All of my preparation really just came together for me when I needed it to,” Patel said. “I had no complaints on how I played — just complete satisfaction for my performance.”
Last season before the Regional semi-finals, Patel suffered from recurrent shoulder tendonitis.
“I couldn’t practice as I had been before State,” he said. “It was a struggle to play, but I ended up getting sixth place. I couldn’t be too disappointed with the circumstances.”
Since Patel was the only player who qualified for State last season, Porter said he hopes to see more of the team qualify and be successful.
“As an individual, I would like to qualify for State,” Porter said. “Also, [I want to] just enjoy my senior season. As a team, I would say if we could finish third or fourth in the EKL it would be really good for us and to qualify more people to State than we did last year. We have the hardest Regional in the state.”
Patel said he hopes to remain healthy throughout the season and finish strong.
“Individually, I see my chances for a State championship [as] very good,” he said. “Hopefully I can capitalize on the opportunity. As a team, I hope we will keep working as we have. If we keep that, good things will happen.”