Boys tennis enters semi-state with three freshman players


T. Magnusen

Freshman Daksh Patel swings his racquet during warmups against Park Tudor.

Earl Ridlen, Staff Writer

The 2021 boys varsity tennis team is not typical.

In fact, compared to last year, it’s very abnormal. In the 2020 season the team was dominated by seniors, with many key contributors being older and experienced. In 2021, however, there has been a completely different story. The team includes three freshmen on the varsity team.

Tyler Lane, Carson Bush and Daksh Patel haven’t even completed a semester of high school, yet they will be competing for a spot in the state finals.

“It would be crazy to win state this year,” Bush said. “We haven’t won state in a couple of years so it would be really crazy, especially as a freshman.”

The team has not won a state championship since 2008, and this year’s team has the opportunity to advance with a win over Zionsville in today’s semi state match. The pressure of the games in high school versus middle school has caused a lot of nerves for two of the freshmen.

“I’m always a nervous wreck during matches,” Lane said. “Especially if they’re really big. In middle school the other guys weren’t that big, but when you get up in high school they’re a lot better and they are more serious tennis players.”

Lane’s feelings are shared by Patel, who also has a much smaller frame than the majority of his opponents.

“I’m usually pretty nervous,” Patel said. “When I go up to the match it is hard not to think about the size of the other player. I’m not so big. Most people that I’ve played with have been bigger than me.”

Bush sees the size difference and has a different approach.

“It feels really good,” Bush said. “Especially with the height difference, you look at [the opponent] and you can kind of get intimidated when you first see him. Then at the other match when you beat him it’s like no big deal.”

Whether the other teams are big or not, the freshmen keep winning: All three have winning records. On top of this, as a freshman, Lane is the team’s No. 1 singles player with a record of 15-9.

“A lot of people expect a lot out of me because I’ve beaten a lot of people,” Lane said. “It’s challenging because I have to work very hard for it.”

All three players have had to overcome pressure from the step up to the varsity stage.

“Size has been a big problem,” Patel said. “I’ve needed to stay confident and I think I’ve done a good job even with the disadvantage. I go out on the court and focus, I don’t think ‘he’s bigger than me.’ or anything like that”

Nerves and pressure play a big role in Lane’s game, so he’s had to figure out how to overcome them.

“Coach Ivan tells me to focus on my breathing, to get air in my muscles and stay less tense,” Lane said. “Before matches I think of what I’m going to do and say encouraging things to myself instead of negative things.”

Tyler Lane loves not only the sport of tennis, but the relationships he has developed because of it.

“It’s one of the only sports I find really fun,” Lane said. “A lot of my friends are on the tennis team and I like hanging out with them every day.”

For Lane, tennis is all about these relationships. In fact, a relationship is how he fell in love with the sport in the first place.

“My sister played before me,” Lane said. “I always liked to do what she did, so I started playing with her. Now, I hit with my dad and the coaches I have now.”