A great deal of Jack Hibbard's offseason tennis regimen was lost to a labrum tear in his right shoulder, but the Wheeler No. 1 singles player never thought his junior season would be in jeopardy.
"I did not play a match until late July," said Hibbard, who said he suffered the injury in January. "When it first happened, I was really frustrated. I couldn't serve at all, and I thought all of this (training) was for nothing.
"I just kept fighting through it and never put in my mind that I wasn't going to play."
Hibbard was 18-1 at No. 3 singles as a freshman and 17-3 last season at No. 1 singles. Despite feeling like he's been playing catch up with his local competition, Hibbard enters today's Portage Sectional semifinal with Valparaiso at 14-4.
"Every time you go through something like this," Hibbard said, "you've got no choice but to work harder."
Hibbard lists himself at about 85 to 90 percent, saying a little pain still lingers.
"My strength needs to come up," Hibbard said. "I take a couple of Advil before the match, and then the pain is not there."
When it comes to practice, the percentage doesn't drop a digit.
"He's worked harder on his serve and volleys to make himself a more all-around player," Wheeler coach Mike Rosta said. "He's passed me where I cannot always go out and hit with him."
Hibbard's tennis skills are unmatched on the team, but that doesn't limit the junior from getting the most out of practice.
"I'll just have him go over and hit 400 balls off the machine, 200 forehand and 200 backhand. He's always doing something," Rosta said.
Tennis has always seemed to have been a part of Hibbard's life.
"My dad (Jeff) tells me he got me (on the court), when I was 2 (years old)," Jack said. "I don't remember that, but I never remember a time where I wasn't holding a tennis racket."
Jack Hibbard does recall playing "indoor" tennis with a blanket as the net, balloons as tennis balls and using his hand as a racket.
"I cannot realize myself not playing (tennis)," Hibbard said. "I've been on the court so many times, I just feel at home out there. I get a peace of mind, clear all of my troubles away and just play.
"I love it."
Hibbard's father played college tennis at Grace, and Jack would also like to play at the next level.
"It's a big goal of mine," Jack said. "I'm determined to work in the offseason to give myself a chance."