FORT WAYNE – Canterbury’s Clay Hoffacker has become the face of the No. 3 boys tennis team in the state. At least for now, that is.
The junior has moved up to the No. 1 singles slot – temporarily – as senior Patrick Downs gets checked out for a back injury.
I want to play my best and step up and win for the team, especially when it is high stakes, Hoffacker said Monday after a 5-0 win over Bishop Dwenger at Zollner Courts. There’s more pressure, and it means more and that gets me ready for the match.
Downs, the team’s No. 1 singles player for the past three seasons, originally injured his back in a late summer USTA tournament and tweaked it in the season opener against Concordia two weeks ago. He played one out of a possible three matches Saturday at the North Central Invitational in Indianapolis, and then was idled.
Canterbury coach Jerry Gerig said Downs was scheduled to have tests on his back Monday and was awaiting the results. Gerig said he hopes to have his top player back in a week or so.
Right now, we are trying to turn it into a positive in that everybody has to play up higher on the team, Gerig said. When (Downs) comes back, they will be even stronger because of that.
With Downs’ absence, the lineup gets switched around with some players, like Hoffacker, moving up from his usual No. 2 slot. He beat Bishop Dwenger’s Charlie Scott 6-1, 6-3. Scott was also playing a spot higher with the absence of Bertram Najev because of personal reasons.
It gives them a chance to see different kinds of positions, and what there is and how they hit and gives them that experience, Hoffacker said of players moving up.
In other individual matches against Dwenger, Davis Huber beat Patrick Holly 6-3, 6-1 at No. 2 singles, Tom Filus beat Nathan Schleinkofer 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3 singles, Chris Yahanda and William Wright beat Dillon Osward and Luke Mlakar 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles, and Mitch Gilbert and Chad Schouweiler beat Matt Woodrum and Jacob Maskal in the closest match, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles.
Even with Downs only playing the one match Saturday, the No. 3 Cavaliers finished third in the tournament behind top-ranked North Central and No. 2 Carmel. The invitational also featured No. 4 Park Tudor, No. 5 Brebeuf, No. 6 Hamilton Southeastern and No. 9 Center Grove.
It is probably the best tournament in the state in the regular season, Gerig said. You don’t get an easy match. They are always tough. Our team did well. We want to be right there with them at the end. We showed that we can be based on how we played Saturday.
We came away with a lot of good things. Our main priority is getting Patrick healthy so we can bring our strongest lineup.