All-County team: Boys tennis

At 5-foot-6 and 115 pounds, Tyler Lane wasn’t Johnson County’s most physically imposing boys tennis player last season.

The Center Grove freshman settled for being its best.

Having gradually developed a skill set capable of catapulting him to the top of the Trojans’ lineup, Lane, who doesn’t turn 15 until later this month, assembled a somewhat deceiving 16-10 record to be named the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year.

Center Grove, which advanced to semistate for a fifth consecutive year, dominates the squad with freshman No. 2 singles player Daksh Patel and the doubles combinations of Bennett Strain and Max Williams and Connor Smith and Carson Bush also making it.

Whiteland senior Dylan Gross, the Mid-State Conference champion at No. 1 singles, is also honored, as is his teammate, junior No. 2 singles player Ty McCullars. Gross is the lone repeater, having made the 2020 All-County squad as a doubles player.

Lane, meanwhile, is only the second ninth-grader to immediately take hold of the top singles position in the long tenure of Center Grove coach Ivan Smith.

The first, Bryan Smith, went on to win state singles championships in 1990 and 1992.

Impressive company indeed.

As for Lane, growing up in a tennis family attracted him to the sport early.

“By mom and dad (Brian and Stacye) both played tennis in high school, and my older sister, (Center Grove senior Halle Lane), played tennis, too,” Lane said. “I always wanted to do what she did, only she switched to soccer and I stayed with tennis.

“It was really fun being able to play for Center Grove because of our two seniors (Strain and Connor Smith). They’re such good leaders for the team and made it a good environment for the younger players. They included everyone in everything and made a good path for our futures.”

Every one of Lane’s losses came to players voted first team all-state by the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association.

Center Grove coach Smith looks forward to having Lane in his lineup the next three seasons.

“I think it was apparent that he was talented when I first saw him play,” Smith said. “I saw him hit with his mom on the courts, and Tyler might have been in the fourth or fifth grade.

“He’s quicker than most people, which enables him to stay in a lot of points. And for his size, Tyler hits the ball extremely hard, and is really consistent going crosscourt on his backhand.”

Lane plans to put in the work necessary to improve his game in the offseason, most notably the speed and consistency of his serves.

“My goal is to always be the best that I can,” Lane said. “I was going for No. 1 at the start of the season, but knew there were a lot of great kids on the team.”

Previous articleHelen Joyce (Stainbrook) Holmes
Next articleMelinda “Mel” Kay Banta
Mike Beas is the Daily Journal's veteran sports reporter. He has been to more than 200 Indiana high schools, including 1990s visits to Zionsville to profile current Boston Celtics GM Brad Stevens, Gary Roosevelt to play eventual Purdue All-American Glenn Robinson in HORSE (didn’t end well) and Seeger to visit the old gym in which Stephanie White, later the coach of the Indiana Fever, honed her skills in pickup games involving her dad and his friends. He can be reached at [email protected]