Valparaiso No. 2 singles player Ben Kalisch has posted some staggering numbers this boys tennis season.
The Vikings sophomore is 15-1 entering today's semifinals of the Portage Regional. Kalisch has dropped just 11 games in his victories, posting nine 6-0, 6-0 wins. In Duneland Athletic Conference play, he finished 7-0, had five double-bagel wins and dropped just six games.
"He's a very consistent player, and we did expect some of those dominating scores," Valparaiso coach Tim Shideler said of Kalisch. "I tell people that I don't have a No. 2, Ben is my second No. 1."
With the pending graduation of Marc Shideler, the coach's son, Kalisch realizes that he might be playing No. 1 singles next season.
"That definitely is something to think about, and I'm motivated by it," Kalisch said. "After my wins, I try to go and watch Marc's match. I know that I might be playing that opponent next season, and I think about a possible game plan."
The main focus remains his second season at No. 2 singles. Kalisch grew six inches in the offseason, and the 5-foot-11 sophomore is doing things differently in his matches.
"I'm starting to grow into my body," he said. "I can cover the court a little better, and I can put more into the ball. I definitely can hit my serve harder, because I'm able to get over the ball more."
Kalisch lost 6-1, 6-1 to Munster's Jack Heiniger on Aug. 25, which has strengthened the Valpo sophomore's drive. Even in his blowout wins, Kalisch pushes himself.
"I really don't think about not having a tough match," Kalisch said. "I try to work on something every time out, so I can be ready when I'm challenged."
Kalisch receives quite the challenge in practice, where he works with four-year No. 1 Marc Shideler and sophomore No. 3 singles player Marty Pochop.
"They really help me so I don't lose my edge," Kalisch said of his strenuous practices. "I have to maintain my focus, because I still have to try to hit it clean and place it where I want it. That helps when I have hard points in a match."
For now, Kalisch is helping the Times No. 2 Vikings continue their postseason drive.
"He's a great self-motivator," coach Shideler said of Kalisch. "It's also great for Marc and Marty to have Ben there. They work really well together, and that's helped the team gel. They're in it for each other and have created a great atmosphere."