A rough start to the season served Noah Klumpe well.
Klumpe began sensing back pain as he found out he would play No. 2 singles for Valparaiso's boys tennis team this season. He struggled in the season opener, losing 6-0, 6-0 against South Bend St. Joseph's.
After missing a week of practices and games, Klumpe slowly but surely regained his rhythm. Klumpe is 11-9 overall, and he finished the Duneland Conference season 5-2. He's become an important cog in the Vikings' lineup. Klumpe and Valparaiso (13-5) face No. 19-ranked Penn today in the semifinals of the Portage Regional.
"My back is definitely feeling a lot better," said Klumpe, who has won both of his postseason matches in straight sets. "(The injury) taught me to not ignore injuries and rest up, so I didn't waste my season."
"I'm improving and the whole team is improving at the right time. It's awesome."
That was hardly the sentiment two months earlier.
"Right after I made my place on the team, I started to feel pain," said Klumpe, who felt a pinching sensation on the right then left sides of his lower back. "I didn't think much about it, but it kept getting worse.
"Once I got to the St. Joe match, I think my opponent realized I was struggling. I couldn't twist the right way for a backhand."
Klumpe admitted his off time was a painful process, at times.
"Senior year. If I wanted to play in college, this is the year that people would start to look at me," he said. "My teammates were improving (in practice), and I wanted to be out there and hit."
Valparaiso coach Tim Shideler was impressed by Klumpe's improvement from No.2 doubles last season, so he believed the best decision was rest.
"He was such a pleasant surprise, and I just wanted him to be at 100 percent," Shideler said. "We didn't want it to linger. I thought it would be better to sit him out and get it over with.
"We haven't had to worry about it."
Shideler said Klumpe is hitting with more pace and the senior is dictating more points.
"He's played some great matches that I wouldn't have expected early on," Shideler said. "He's made a believer out of me and I think himself."
Klumpe knows his prep career could end soon, but he also understands there's a chance this won't be the end of his competitive tennis regimen.
"It's kind of bittersweet," said Klumpe, whose grandfather Dan Oury played tennis at Hanover College. "Everyone (on the team) has confidence in me and they were supportive about me coming back from the injury. I'm just filled with confidence to try out with college teams. I'm loving it."