When it came time for Conner Andersen to pick a college to continue his tennis career, older brother Lucas gave him a gentle push.
“We kind of feed off one another,” Lucas said. “It’s like old times to have him on the team. I didn’t want him to go anywhere else besides Ball State.”
The two brothers previously were teammates at Center Grove High School for two years.
“I was definitely nudging him toward Ball State,” Lucas said. “He knew all the guys on the team. It’s a special environment when most of the guys are from Indiana. Coach (Bill) Richards makes it an easy decision to play here, as well.”
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Conner, who chose Ball State over Toledo, said he had a list of pros and cons when deciding, and having his brother on the team was definitely a pro.
Lucas, a junior, plays No. 1 singles for the Cardinals (12-11, 4-3 Mid-American Conference). Conner, a freshman, has played No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 singles with the most matches at No. 4 singles.
Entering this weekend’s MAC tournament at Northern Illinois, Lucas has a 14-7 record (18-12 overall) at No. 1 singles. As a sophomore, Lucas was 5-5 at No. 1 singles and 9-2 at No. 2.
“He’s done fantastic,” Richards said of Lucas becoming a full-time No. 1. “He understands his game so well. He knows his strengths and weaknesses. Along with his physical capabilities, mentally he’s so tough and so smart.”
That mental strength has been essential, Lucas said.
“I think I made the most improvement in confidence and just believing I can play at No. 1,” Lucas said. “When it comes down to the big moments, I have the confidence in my game and shots to compete with the (No.) 1 guys. I’ve always had the tools. It’s just consistently bringing my game every time I play.”
Conner owns a 13-20 overall record in singles.
“Conner has been solid all year,” Richards said. “It’s been tough being thrown into the fire playing both No. 3 and 4 singles. But he’s done a good job. I’m sure he hasn’t won as many matches as he would have liked. The level of competition is very, very tough.”
Richards said the Cardinals were forced to switch their doubles lineup a few weeks ago. Lucas and Andrew Stutz had a 22-10 record overall (9-6 at No. 1 doubles).
“We struggled so much (at other spots) we had to split them up,” Richards said.
Lucas and Patrick Downs are 3-2 at No. 2 doubles. Conner has a 5-1 mark with Stutz at No. 1 doubles.
“There are definitely things that can get better in his game and Conner knows that,” Richards said. “He’s a hard worker and he’s going to keep getting better. He’s got a great future.”
The brothers have always improved in large part practicing against one another.
“He’ll win a set every now and then,” Lucas said. “Playing him there is definitely a brotherly competitiveness where you don’t to lose to your brother. But he’s a teammate, too, and I’m helping him anyway that I can. I really enjoying having him here. It’s been fun.”
Conner said the competitive fire definitely flows when they compete.
“I know he hates to lose to me, so he tries extra hard when he plays me,” Conner said.
Richards said there is seldom any disagreements between the siblings.
“Conner respects Lucas so much,” Richards said. “They get along so well. There is no big brother/little brother bickering. They’re both such mature young men.”
Lucas has provided advice throughout his career, Conner said.
“It’s always been beneficial to me to see what’s worked and hasn’t worked, but mainly what has worked for him here and I’ve tried to emulate that myself,” Conner said.
From the start of the season, Conner said he has concentrated on two areas.
“The things I’ve worked on the most are developing a bigger serve and being mentally stronger to compete with these guys who are older and have been through the higher-pressure matches,” Conner said.
Conner said playing up in the lineup should help him for next season.
“Being in the mix of things your freshman year helps you be exposed to everything. Then you really know what to work on for the future,” he said.
Birth: Oct. 4, 1994, in Evansville.
Personal: Earned All-State first team honors in 2011 and 2012 at Center Grove. Named to All-Mid American Conference second team as a freshman and sophomore.
Favorite class: Microbiology.
Career plans: Nurse practitioner.
Favorite tennis player: Roger Federer.
Favorite restaurant: Qdoba
Birth: Jan. 31, 1997 in Greenwood.
Personal: Named All-State first team in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Favorite class: Accounting.
Major: Economics and accounting.
Career plans: Wants to go to law school and become a corporate lawyer.
Favorite players: Roger Federer and Nick Kygios.
Favorite TV show: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”