BY JOHN DUBOIS
Danville Vikings senior Tyler Ellis will be making his fourth consecutive appearance and first as a singles competitor when the IHSA state tennis tournament begins today at multiple sites in the Chicago area.
“It was a goal of mine to make it in singles my senior season,” Ellis said. “I loved going up there with doubles partners my first three seasons, but playing in singles presents new challenges. I’ve been playing some of my best tennis this season, the opportunity to qualify in singles presented itself, and I embrace the challenge to have a chance to do something different.”
For the first time, the sectional qualifying matches for the state tournament were held at the Danville Tennis Center.
“It adds a lot of emphasis to qualifying for state that I was able to do it in Danville,” Ellis said. “I think I had the most people I’ve ever had come out and watch that qualifying match and it was very special atmosphere for me for that match to be my last one on my home court.”
The Danville Tennis center has always been a special place for Ellis.
“I started playing at the tennis center when I was 7 or 8,” he said. “I’ve also been working at the tennis center the last two years. I’m not sure where I would be as a player if it wasn’t for the tennis center. It has been a definite advantage for me and for Danville tennis.”
Ellis began his career at DHS at No. 1 singles and remained in that position for all four seasons, but things didn’t get off to great a start
“I think I was like 2-13 that first season,” Ellis said. “(Then DHS coach) Scott Simpson asked me if I wanted to move down, but I decided not to because playing at that level was the best way to learn and things began to fall into place. I have had great coaches. Scott was the coach my first two seasons and Eric Free has been the coach for my final two seasons and along with the assistant coaches, everyone brought something different.”
Ellis will be playing next season at Olivet Nazarene.
“The minute I stepped on the campus at Olivet I knew it was the right place for me,” Ellis said. “It was the friendliest place I visited, and it gives me the best opportunity to grow as a person and as a player. Tennis and sports in general is one of the best ways to learn about how to deal with adversity and the ups and downs you face in life and the fact that you wont always be successful.”
As he prepares for his final matches as a Viking, Ellis looked back at his time at DHS.
“I want to thank everyone for their support over the last four years,” he said. “I wish the best of luck to my teammates. I will always be proud of where I came from and I have and always will wear the maroon and white with a lot of pride.
“Danville has great people and a certain underdog type edge about it and I will always remember my time at DHS. I thank my parents for blessing me with every opportunity to pursue my dreams. I have had the opportunity to mature as a player over the last four years both from winning and losing matches. You always want to improve and to never be comfortable and through the experiences of four years everything came together this season.”
Ellis begins play today at Wheeling against Michael Lorenzini from defending state team champion Hinsdale Central.