Boys varsity tennis team introduces star freshmen players


Michaela Malec

Last week, the boys varsity tennis team traveled to Tennessee to compete. Danny Schmelka and Ansh Shah, freshmen, who are two of the teams up-and-coming athletes both competed in Tennessee.

With one final swing of the tennis racket, the fuzzy, neon yellow ball flies to the other side of the court, winning the match. Loud cheering and applause is heard in the background, coming from the other members of the boys varsity tennis team.

To any student attending here, it is no secret that the boys varsity tennis team has many accomplishments. Over the past two decades, the team has won State Championships in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

This year, the team features two new freshmen: Danny Schmelka and Ansh Shah. Both boys are singles players and are expected to bring great success to the varsity team, which is primarily made up of upperclassmen.

“Danny and Ansh are extraordinarily talented freshmen. They are great additions to our returning players,” said Mr. John Naisbitt, who has been the boys’ varsity coach for the past 24 years. “I expect them to be a huge part of our State Championship run. I am thrilled to have them on the varsity team.”

Michaela Malec
The boys tennis teams use the Hinsdale Racquet Club to practice due to the cold weather.

Schmelka is ranked 25th in the nation, while Shah is ranked 63rd in the nation for their age group. Schmelka has played for seven years at the Hinsdale Racquet Club, while Shah currently plays at Score Tennis and Fitness and has played for four years competitively.

“My favorite part about being a tennis player is that I just really like the sport. I like how it’s individual, and it’s not a team sport, so the only person you really have to count on is yourself. I like this because I’m an independent person,” Schmelka said.

Both boys have been playing tennis for much of their lives, and they have played in many tournaments and events. Schmelka says that the biggest tournament he has ever played in was Winter Nationals in Tucson, Ariz. in 2017. Shah says that the largest tournament he has competed in was a Super National in 2016 which consisted of the top players in the nation under 14 years old.

“I feel that tennis lets me express the true me. When I’m on the court, I feel that I’m the true me. I love the game. I love the struggle. But mostly, I just love having fun on the court and making new friends along the way,” Shah said.

The team left for Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, March 15 in order to participate in a national tournament with the best high schools in the country. Central’s team is the first seed in their bracket.

While in Chattanooga, the varsity team beat St. Andrews 5-1 on Saturday, March 17, advancing them to the finals of the National High School Championships.

The tennis team is not strictly business, however; the athletes also share many memories and great times along the way.

“My favorite part about coaching the varsity team is the laughs we have on the team bus and at restaurants and at practice. We have a good time when staying focused on our goals. I like to call it ‘serious fun’,” Coach Naisbitt said.

To see pictures from Chattanooga, Tenn., check out Dan Jones’s Twitter @RedDevilsAD.