Luke Sanderson had a set plan in his mind. It wasn't an easy decision, but it was one he felt he needed to execute for the sake of improving his tennis game.
The Kankakee Valley senior finished his freshman and sophomore seasons as one of the most talented and successful boys tennis players in the state.
As a sophomore, Sanderson made an appearance in the individual state finals, where he lost 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinals to former Park Tudor standout Brendan Tannenbaum.
Sanderson decided to take his junior year of high school competition off, instead focusing on playing in United States Tennis Association tournaments.
"It went really well," Sanderson said. "The competition was really good. It definitely helped my (college) recruiting."
While Sanderson missed being around his high school teammates, the decision to focus on USTA definitely paid its dividends.
As of Monday, the website www.tennisrecruiting.net has Sanderson ranked No. 2 in the state, and 192nd in the country as a four-star recruit.
Air Force is the top college on Sanderson's list, but he's also interested in IU and Notre Dame.
Tennis is in Sanderson's blood.
His father, Reggie, is the women's tennis coach at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer and coached prep tennis all around Northwest Indiana.
Luke's older sister Katee is a Michigan City grad who also starred under the tutelage of her father as a SJC women's tennis player.
Katee is now a first-year boys tennis coach at K.V., and knows her brother's game inside and out. Only four years in age separate the two, so they often practice together.
"I've seen his game grow and evolve," she said. "Our dad definitely helped him with developing his game. I'm able to hit with him and keep up most of the time."
The mental aspect of Luke's game has improved leaps and bounds. He was dedicated to the growth of that aspect of his game so much that sports psychologist John Israel of Michigan City was hired to help him out.
"We just work on pretty much everything mentally," Luke said. "He calms me down and helps me get through big pressure situations. He helps me make the best decisions in my head."
K.V. fought through a winless season last year and has improved to 6-10 this season. The Kougars will face favored Lake Central today at the Crown Point Sectional.
"We've been emphasizing fighting hard to get wins," said Luke, who also looks to make more noise in the individual state tournament. "They're doing really good. They've improved tremendously since the beginning of the season."