POWHATAN - After the first-through-third-seed playoff singles matches wrapped-up, several of the Powhatan players stepped onto the tennis courts and commenced practice with one another.
Even after Ben Wojcicki’s match point clinched the first-round regional team victory for Powhatan over Louisa, the players weren’t leaving; they kept the ball moving across the net, continuing to get in the reps.
That’s a routine sight prior to games, head coach Levander Kelley pointed out. Before every home match, Powhatan’s players practice for two hours “so that everyone is included and no one is left behind,” Kelley said.
“And the progression just continues,” he added, “and they get on the other ones: if they’re not doing it correctly, they actually make the corrections in practice and everything.”
That progression has Powhatan currently alive in the playoffs on a 10-7 record with an upcoming second-round region tournament match at Courtland on Tuesday.
“We come out here, we play our best every day or at least we try to…but we’re always out here practicing,” Brendan Pfab said. “Two hours each day is rough, but it’s worth it in the long run.”
Against Louisa, no. 1 Brendan Pfab swept Gage Parrott 6-0, 6-0, no. 2 Jacob Pfab defeated Tyler Yeatts 6-1, 6-0, no. 3 Ryan Steinruck swept Jason Brooks 6-0, 6-0, no. 4 Connor Lindhjem defeated Corey Toews 6-1, 6-0, no. 5 Wojcicki clinched the decisive 5th win on a 6-1, 6-2 decision over Nathan Gramling and no. 6 Michael Washburn defeated Alan Swasey 6-1, 6-1.
“It was a nice way to set the tone for the rest of the week here,” Wojcicki said. “We’ve got Courtland tomorrow…and they’re not going to be the easiest team to beat, but this is a good way to get a foot down on the pavement so-to-say.”
The Indians’ dominant playoff victory on Monday continued the momentum they sustained through a thrilling 6-3 triumph over Monticello and a home contest that saw Powhatan match-up well against Hanover, even though the Hawks went on to get the team victory. Both contests were part of a week in which Powhatan competed in one match per weekday.
“That was huge - coming into Hanover, we were all tired, but we all went out there and gave our best, and we were competitive for sure,” Brendan said.
Powhatan’s senior class this year, honored at the Indians' home match versus Hanover on May 10, includes Brendan, Lindhjem, Wojcicki, Henry Adkins, John Varel, Cole Vonderharr and Jeremy Dodd. This group of seniors, Kelley noted, has been bringing both leadership and belief.
“They bought in to leaving a legacy,” he added. “It’s not goodbye; it’s: I’m going to leave you with something that’s going to enhance this team, and hopefully you will…leave something that’s going to enhance [the team] and will continue to grow, so they’re looking forward to that, that they can actually come back and see these guys compete on the state level.”
With Powhatan Boys Tennis, there’s a really strong sense of community, Wojcicki said.
“Ever since 9th grade, this has always been a place where I want to be,” he said. “It’s always a place where I look forward to at the end of the day – I can just go and play some tennis and just be part of the team.
“I think it’s the same for a lot of the guys, that: it’s not even really that much of a grind anymore. It’s just something that we do and it’s something that we enjoy.”
Coach Kelley feels blessed to be at Powhatan.
“I have a great bunch of kids, a great bunch of supportive parents,” he said, “and I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
“Home is always very strong,” Brendan said.
Connor Lindhjem commits to Mary Baldwin
POWHATAN – Connor Lindhjem had never picked up a tennis racket until his freshman year at Powhatan High School.
But now, the Powhatan senior is embracing the opportunity to continue playing tennis at the collegiate level as part of Mary Baldwin’s new NCAA team.
“As a tennis player I’ve learned so much,” Lindhjem said. “To come all this way is really exciting for me, and I really appreciate everyone that’s been around and I’ve…just learned a lot about myself, how to be competitive in a good way and not bring down myself and the people around me. Just built a lot of character, I would say.”
Lindhjem met the coach during a visit to Mary Baldwin, and at the time they only had about 2 players on the team.
“He was like: Yeah, if you want to play, you’re in!” Lindhjem recalled the coach saying, “so I was like, ‘Sweet!’ I was really excited to play, he’s a super-nice guy – I’m really excited for it.”
The small Mary Baldwin team started as a club and will be beginning its first varsity season once Lindhjem arrives for his freshman year.
“It’ll be fun to…really be one of the first ones in there with just kind of a few guys to get tight with,” Lindhjem said. “I’m really looking forward to being the start of something new.”
From his Powhatan coaches and teammates, Lindhjem learned how to enjoy the game and how just to enjoy anything, no matter the outcome.
“Especially Brendan [Pfab], playing doubles with him, it meant a lot – I really enjoyed it, he taught me a lot about the sport and just how to play the sport mentally and physically,” Lindhjem said.
With his new team on the college level, Lindhjem hopes to become a better person both on and off of the tennis court, and to create memories that he’ll have forever.