Before the start of the 2012-2013 season, the Highland Park boys tennis team was in need of a leader. The team had graduated a senior class that included both its No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams as well as its No. 1 singles player, leaving experience at the top vacant.
That’s when then-junior Eli Schneider decided to fill the void.
Schneider, now a senior, was one of only six upperclassmen on the team last year and is one of only two seniors this year. He said the progression into the role was natural for him.
“It was tough at times, but we had a lot of good younger guys,” Schneider said. “People listened to me, and it was really a team effort.”
Although the team struggled most of last year, the Giants have shown vast improvement this season. Coach Steve Rudman credited Schneider with setting a good example.
“It’s just being a leader and making sure everybody’s practicing hard every day during the drills,” Rudman said. “You have to make sure the younger guys know this is a team sport.”
Schneider primarily plays in the No. 2 doubles slot alongside junior Teddy Dunn. Dunn said Schneider’s character strengthens his leadership.
“He’s a great guy. He’s really nice,” Dunn said. “He really pushes you to do your best.”
Schneider started playing with the varsity team as a sophomore, allowing him to develop a familiarity with Rudman’s coaching style and the traditions of the program. Rudman said that has given Schneider an understanding of how the sport works that the younger players might not have when they first join varsity.
“He understands what high school sports are,” Rudman said. “He understands it’s a game, that you’re part of a team, and that you have a commitment to that team and to that school to make sure you’re working your hardest.”
As the regular season winds down, Schneider said that the team chemistry continues to improve, and that could set the team up for a postseason run during sectionals.
“I know there are younger players that are better than me,” Schneider said. “I listen to them, they listen to me. We all help each other out.”