By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – What does high school tennis at Bedford North Lawrence share with Hoosiers, the quintessential movie about basketball in this state?
Team identity. BNL coach Donnie Thomas keeps replaying a key scene from the film, where gruff anti-hero Norman Dale sharply addresses the Hickory student body after the chant for an absent athlete arose. The quote is iconic: “I would hope you would support who we are, not who we are not.”
Thomas could sit and wonder “what if” after losing 11 players – either by graduation, defection or decision to focus on another sport – from his program. He does not play that game. That’s a waste of time and mental energy.
And the Stars have enough talent to compete, even without a Jimmy Chitwood waiting in the wings. With his lineup already solidified, Thomas is set to start the 2019 campaign with the expectation of continuing the success of recent seasons.
The singles lineup is totally revamped, and only one doubles tandem returns intact. But Thomas is pleased with his current top seven.
“I think we’ll be as good as we were last year (7-10 overall), if not better,” Thomas said. “I really wouldn’t know where to put them all if everyone had come back. It gives these guys an opportunity. We always rise to the occasion. Somebody always comes in. This will only make us better for next year.”
The optimism starts with Cameron Gratzer at No.1 singles, Adam Tlustek at No.2, and Konley Woodward (who is scrubbing off rust after coming back to the court after two years away) at No.3.
The experience is at No.1 doubles with Cade Provo and Wyatt Scherschel. Steven Graham and Graham Turner will combine for a crack Graham-cracker combo at No.2 doubles.
The unexpected departures hurt the overall depth, especially if anyone in the current rotation suffers an illness or injury. Thomas will cross that bridge if necessary. He has his team on the floor (in this case, the asphalt court) and has the motivational flick ready to play.
“I watched Hoosiers the other night, where he introduces his team,” Thomas said. “Support us for who we are, not for who were not. That’s all I’ve been thinking about.”
And everyone remembers how that ended.
BNL will open the regular season at Barr-Reeve on Aug. 19.