Hiland senior Charlie Schlabach could easily wonder “What if?”
He’d prefer to simply look at what lies ahead.
Schlabach, Hiland’s No. 1 singles player this season, didn’t pick up a tennis racket until his freshman year, but the smooth, consistent player quickly became at home on the tennis courts at Hiland, and quickly earned his way into a starting roll his sophomore year.
Schlabach’s meteoric rise up the tennis charts has seen him capture a district berth in doubles, and while he could lament about not having taken up the game sooner, he instead chooses to rejoice in having found it when he did.
“All the years have just muddled together,” said Schlabach of his career. “My first practice ever with Braxton (Mullet) and Cole (Reynolds) and Cameron (Yoder) and Alec (Mast) and Spencer (Yoder) and all those guys was just a blast, and it showed me how much fun this sport can be. I hadn’t ever played before, and it was a great learning opportunity for me. I was very fortunate be a part of that, even though I didn’t get to play in matches.”
While Schlabach sat and waited his turn behind a loaded senior group that went on to set most of the school’s records, he didn’t waste the chance to learn the game.
His ground game improved vastly, and he moved into doubles play in his sophomore year and became a factor for the solid varsity club.
What ensued was tennis camps and devoting himself to improving his game. Quietly, Schlabach became a huge part of the team, and by his junior year, he and teammate Logan Yoder had worked their way into a shot at advancing to districts. They grabbed ahold and qualified for districts, and now as seniors, are looking to continue that upward trend.
Now he will take over at first singles, replacing hard-hitting Seth Haun.
Schlabach said getting the opportunity with former Hiland coach Tony Mullet in his formative years was a big advantage.
“I think Tony helped me a lot because he helped me realize I had to work to get better,” Schlabach said.
According to Hiland head coach Tyler Yoder, Schlabach’s work ethic and ability to continue to fine tune his game comes from one character trait that a lot of players struggle with.
“He’s put in a lot of time in the offseason and it has paid off,” said Hiland coach Yoder of Schlabach. “But I think one of Charlie’s biggest assets is that he is receptive to taking input from other people to get better. He takes constructive comments really well and learns from them. If someone like Brad Mullet talks to him and tells him something, he can grasp that and pick up on some of the littler stuff that can improve his game.”
That willingness has led to Schlabach becoming Hiland’s No. 1 man in his senior year, but more importantly, he has developed a game that he believes will be an asset far beyond his senior year.
“I like this game because it is something I can play for the rest of my life,” Schlabach said. “I think I can really have a lot of fun this year as I work to get better, and I am really looking forward to having an enjoyable and successful season.”