LATHRUP VILLAGE — In practice, Southfield-Lathrup’s No. 1 singles player Donovan Luttrell lets his mind relax and fires winners past his teammates.
Even in matches, he finds himself hitting forehands and backhands that opponents can’t reach, but still, the confidence isn’t there yet.
“Somehow, mentally, I just can’t get it together to (go for winners) in the game. In practice, I feel very comfortable with it, and I’m trying to make that transition,” Luttrell said during a break from practice. “I try it out, and I just don’t feel comfortable with it yet, even when it goes in. It’s just not my game and never has been my game, but it’s a transition I need to make.”
The senior’s “game” is of consistency and tiring out opponents, as opposed to hitting outright aces. He described himself as a “backboard,” taking his opponents’ best shots and finding a way to return it until they falter.
Luttrell’s style has served him well.
Last season, he won the No. 1 singles Oakland Activities Association Blue Division title. This year, he’s 6-0 overall at press time and hasn’t lost a set.
Though Luttrell said he’s looking to add more shots to his repertoire, knowing that he needs them to compete at the regional level, and hopefully, in the college ranks.
“He’s a defensive player. He’s essentially a wall and just gets everything back,” coach Daniel Minadeo said. “He wears them down physically and mentally. … Because he’s had so much success that way, it’s hard for him to change his style, but he continually tries to improve.”
When Luttrell is looking for a little inspiration on how to be more forceful, he takes a quick look at No. 2 singles player Anthony Talley.
“It does make me feel the confidence that I can do that stuff. It does help me, because all I have to do is look over and see him playing aggressively.”
Talley is 4-2 overall on the year. Minadeo said the sophomore is much
improved from last season.
“He goes for big serves; he goes for shots with a big forehand,” the coach said. “If he’s hitting his shots, then he’s really tough to beat.”
Minadeo added that the contrasting styles of his top two singles players helps them both in practice.
“I think that it helps Anthony a little bit because he realizes sometimes that he’ll have to take a little something off of his shot to keep the point going, hoping that Donovan makes a mistake, but it’s so rare,” he said.
Junior Chase Colding plays No. 3 singles and is 3-1 on the year. Minadeo called the three the best group of singles players he’s had on one team in his eight years of coaching.
“He’s a very good athlete,” Minadeo said of Colding. “In fact, there are colleges and pros looking at him for baseball. His tennis talents are developing, but he can use his athleticism for success.”
Overall, the Chargers are 1-2-1 and 0-2-1 in the Blue, starting every match down 0-2 because of a lack of numbers.
Still, in the matches played on the court, Lathrup has done well. Against Royal Oak High, the Chargers lost 5-3, but were 3-3 in actual matches. Against Southfield, Lathrup tied 4-4, but went 4-1 in matches played.
Lathrup beat Waterford Kettering and didn’t drop a set, which was a first for Minadeo since being at Lathrup.
“We all try to compete with each other,” Luttrell said of the team’s chemistry. “We support each other during the matches and try and maintain that unity.”
Catch the Chargers against Ann Arbor Rudolf Steiner at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at home.