Titan Tennis Takes on State Championships

Photo by Natalee Still

Natalee Still and Keaghan McDaniel

Every spring, the LSW boys tennis team has players that make their way to state. This year, the team had one player that made it. This varsity player is Hogan Stoker. Although Stoker is only a sophomore, this is already his second year making state.

Stoker has been playing tennis since he was in fifth grade. “I like [tennis] just going around the country and meeting new people, just forming bonds outside of school,” he said.

Tennis is one of the few sports Stoker can play due to a head injury. He said he can only play non-contact sports. Stoker said he has lost hearing, “I have something wrong with my head, so if I get hit in the head again, I could lose more hearing.”

With tennis being the non-contact sport Stoker chose to play, he stuck with it and got to be a Varsity player as a freshman. He went to state as a freshman and said he is excited to go to state this year.

“I am looking forward to state this year and I hope to do better than I did last year, had I placed in the ninth to 11th category, missing all-state by just one match. So hopefully this year I can turn that around and finish in the top eight and hopefully, the ultimate goal, is to finish in the top four,” Stoker said,

Last year, Stoker said he was even more excited to make it to state with it being his first time than it was for him now. “Last year’s sectionals match was really hard. It lasted over three hours. So after that match ended and I knew I was going to state, it excited me more,” Stoker said.

Stoker said it was expected for him to go to state this year so there was more pressure on him. He said he was more relieved rather than excited.

One of Stoker’s teammates, junior Zach Calder has played tennis since his freshman year. He made varsity his sophomore year and was on it again his junior year. He met Stoker when Stoker first came to high school. Calder said, “[Hogan] not only wowed the coaches when he came, he wowed us [the players] too.”

Calder said that Stoker was the first player in the history of LSW boys tennis to beat Rockhurst which is a pretty big deal.

“Hogan is a phenomenal teammate. He is always pushing us to be the best players we can be. He always wants to go that extra mile. While the rest of us are kind of starting to slow down, Hogan is like ‘No we got to keep going, we need to get even better than we are right now.’ So he just pushes us making us the best team we can be,” Calder said.

Not only is Stoker a good teammate on the court, Calder said, “He is really good off the court, He is a really nice guy, he is a really good friend. I can speak nothing but highly about him. He is honestly one of the nicest guys I know. His character is really good.”

Varsity Tennis coach Paul Klene has been coaching at West for 31 years and has coached tennis, track, football, and swimming.  Stoker has a good reputation off of the court as Klene said, “I cannot say enough about what a great person he is. I nominated him for The Champion of Character Award for the NAIA awards and he received a medal for that.  He makes LSW and the program proud.”

Klene said, “What part of 20 wins and 1 loss do you not understand? He is simply exceptional.” Klene said, as a freshman, Stoker as a Freshmen defeated Pembrokes number one.  

Stoker placed first in Districts in singles this year and second as a Freshman. Klene said that he noticed the talent of Stoker within 30 minutes of the first practice.

Stoker returned from state and said he felt disappointed. “I won my first match, then I lost in the quarters and ended up losing my next match too,” Stoker said.

“The first two matches I held it in emotionally, the last one I kind of let myself go, I kind of lost it,” Stoker said.

Stoker said the coaches told him they were proud of him. “But I definitely think that they want me to get more motivated and get better next year,” Stoker said.

Stoker said this has motivated him to work harder and become physically and mentally stronger.