Something that rarely occurs in high school tennis happened in the fifth place match Friday at the regional tennis tournament in Hillsboro — two teammates were matched up against each other.
To the relief of both Hillsboro tennis players Grant Shewey and Harry Faber, the match only mattered for seeding at state, the top six players in the regional advance, and pride.
Although the two players, compete against one another every day in practice, Faber had never prevailed over Shewey.
“Today would be a good day to change that,” Faber said.
A senior, Shewey has been Hillsboro’s No. 1 tennis player all year. His attitude about his previous match was more relief than excitement. With a win over Evan Bentley of Hutchinson Trinity, 6-3 and 6-1, Shewey earned a third consecutive trip to the state tournament.
Having placed sixth last year at state and being the third seed in the regional, Shewey was slightly disappointed about his result on Friday. He lost to Grant Prilliman of Conway Springs in the second round, 7-5 and 6-1. He was thrown off his game when a string on his racket broke. He said he went through three rackets in the match. It was the first time all year he had experienced any equipment trouble.
For Faber, who primarily played doubles last season, reaching state was in no way a given. He accomplished the feat Friday by defeating Vishnu Nagireddy of Wichita independent, 6-2 and 7-5, in the third round.
“I kind of hoped but didn’t expect to,” Faber said.
Faber’s story is one of gradual improvement over the year. Shewey said Faber’s backhand has become a weapon for his junior counterpart.
“His backhand is probably better than his forehand,” Shewey said.
An adjustment that Faber has worked on all year is controlling his emotions during a match. In contrast to Shewey, who stays cool and in control during a match, Faber will visibly show frustration. At one point in his first round victory over Kyle Thompson of Neodesha, 6-1 and 6-0, Faber kicked the fencing behind him after missing a shot.
For the most part, he has been able to harness that energy and use it to his advantage.
“Staying positive during matches,” Faber said. “It can make a difference sometimes.”
Shewey and Faber’s playing styles differ, mirroring their levels of experience.
Shewey is content to hammer shots from the baseline, knowing he can place a well-struck forehand beyond the reach of an opponent within a few volleys.
“He doesn’t give a whole lot of chances,” Faber said. “He likes to keep the ball deep.”
Faber plays with far less patience. Although both tennis players said they will adjust depending on opponent, Faber said he likes to attack the net whenever possible and put pressure on the opposition.
“It works to attack against most people,” Faber said.
However, Shewey and Faber are more similar than they are different. Both of them come from tennis families. Shewey is following in the footsteps of an older brother and Faber had two sisters who played for Hillsboro.
“They’re both really good,” Faber said. “It’s a lot to live up to.”
Both players fell in love with the sport after introductions at a young age. Faber said it was his father that introduced the game to the family. Shewey has played since he attended a tennis camp in second grade.
Both players also have a unique sense of style, as is becoming customary for the Trojans. Shewey is sporting a mohawk haircut. The back of his head is blanketed with a wide strip of wild blond curls that make him look like an adolescent lion as he bounces on the baseline. He and teammate Jeff Pritchard both went with mohawks to start the season as part of a two-year tradition.
Faber did not modify his mane for the season, but he does utilize some non-traditional team attire. He always wears a maize and blue Michigan hat, for no other reason than his father is from Michigan and it is his hat. Faber also began wearing one black sock and one white sock this season.
“I’m probably going to have to keep doing it,” Faber said.
They are also both heading to the state tournament Friday and Saturday in Wichita, but only one of them could walk away with a victory on Friday. As has been the case all season, Shewey bested Faber, 6-3 and 6-1.