Changes Serve Competition for Boys Tennis
Jun 14, 2016 08:46AM ● Published by Bryan Scott
Members of the junior varsity doubles teams warm up before matches against East on April 29. – Travis Barton
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By Travis Barton | firstname.lastname@example.org
Some high school coaches worry about having to cut kids during tryouts while other coaches worry about having enough kids to fill a team. For Highland boys tennis coach Scott Olsen, it was the latter.
Olsen, who’d been an assistant coach the previous three years, was hired as the head coach mere weeks before the season started after the previous coach decided not to return.
“It was a little bit of a last minute decision…some of the parents asked me if I could do it since I knew the guys and luckily with my work schedule I was able to arrange it,” Olsen said.
Olsen’s first priority was to make sure they had enough players after graduating so many seniors and not having too many freshmen or sophomores the previous year.
“That was our main goal, just locating some people who wanted to play,” Olsen said.
They ended up with 21 players. More, Olsen said, than some of the teams they play against.
Of those new players included senior Brevin Elsholz, a member of the Highland basketball team who played until he was 12 and then doubles as a sophomore. With basketball over, he decided to play tennis again and is the team’s No. 1 singles player.
“[Brevin’s] been great, I’ve been totally impressed considering he hasn’t played competitively for a long time,” Olsen said.
“Brevin’s just an incredible player, he’s been killing it,” Sam Nelson, No. 2 singles player, said. “I think he’s been in every single match even though he hasn’t played as much as everybody else.”
Elsholz said the switch back into tennis was bumpy at first before finding his rhythm again.
“It was a little difficult at first but then I got used to it and picked it up where I left off,” Elsholz said.
Part of the transition was going from a team sport to an individual sport within a team. It’s one that Elsholz has enjoyed.
“I prefer me individually because then I don’t have to rely on anyone else so then I can take responsibility more with my mistakes,” Elsholz said.
In a sport where mistakes lead directly to an opponent’s point, the mental side of the game can be just as important as the physical side.
Olsen said he tries to focus on the basics with the players making sure they have confidence in their abilities.
“A huge part of tennis is mental, that belief and positive attitude, and some of that comes with the player,” Olsen said.
Nelson said his mantra is to focus on one point at a time otherwise it’ll affect his game.
“It doesn’t really matter what happens the point before…I’ve had some matches where I’ve done really well the first set then kinda coasted off that and the next thing you know you’re down four games,” Olson said.
That mantra was in full effect on April 28 against East with wind gusts reaching 20 mph.
“A lot of that [match] was just hitting the ball up in the air and saying a prayer it landed in the court,” Olson said.
After winning the first set 6-3 and winds blowing the ball all over the court, Elsholz then lost the second set 0-6 and was losing 0-5 in the final set.
“It’s hard when you’re down that far but I think [Brevin] is very mentally strong and he doesn’t think the match is over until they’re shaking hands,” Olsen said.
Elsholz said at 0-5 he decided to change it up and slow it down.
“If he [East tennis player] was gonna win it, I wanted him to win it on a winner and not my unforced error,” Elsholz said.
Elsholz tied the match at 5-5 fighting breaking serves and fighting off seven or eight match points before finally succumbing 5-7.
“To me that’s a mental victory because if he has to play that kid again at region or state [tournaments], I think he goes in with a lot of confidence,” Olsen said.
Nelson had a similar match where he lost the first set and was down 1-4 in the second before eventually losing in the third set after fighting off nine match points.
Olsen planned to take these positives into the region tournament where the Rams entered with a 3-3 record after a tough region schedule.