Off the court, Noah Roberts is as easygoing as they come. On the court, his demeanor is that of a fierce competitor and a proven champion.
Roberts, a four-year starter for the Franklin Community High School boys tennis team, is ready to begin his senior year with continued success on his mind.
Although his team lost to Whiteland in last year’s sectional final, Roberts not only advanced in the state singles tournament, but he won sectional and regional titles, earning a spot in the state’s elite eight.
“That was a great experience, something I wasn’t used to,” Roberts said. “It was a very uncharacteristic situation.”
On his arrival at the state finals, Roberts recalled how hard he had worked to get there.
“Once I got past the sectional, I made up my mind to keep going and build on that success,” he said.
“It was the best stretch of tennis I’d ever had. I was beating people I’d lost to in the past.”
Echoing those comments, Franklin coach Rod Snyder said of the state finals, “It was an eye-opening event with a highly charged atmosphere. I’m certain he’ll be able to use that experience to his and his team’s advantage this year.
“Noah is one of those players who sets his own goals. His work ethic is unparalleled, and his mental toughness on the court is ever-present. At the same time, he’s never disrespectful to his opponents. He doesn’t make bad calls, and he’s very humble.”
Roberts, known for his powerful left-handed serve, is equally agile and effective with his baseline ground strokes and backhand returns and occasionally charges the net.
Roberts, who recently gave a verbal commitment to attend Marian University, admitted this year will be unlike previous years.
“My whole high school career, it seems I’ve been looking up to opponents. Now, I’m going to be facing people below me (in age), so it’ll be a whole different viewpoint.
“My experience gives me an advantage to read my opponents and win those clutch points in tight situations,” he said.
Over the summer, Roberts played in a number of tournaments held at Indiana, Purdue and the University of Louisville that included college and high school players.
“I’ve really paid more attention to conditioning in my workouts than ever before,” he added. “The kind of work that increases my speed, quicker side-to-side movements, in addition to exercises to improve my inner core. The goal is to be more physically fit and more athletic to endure the stamina of a long season.”
Roberts and his teammates have laid out big goals for the coming season.
“When I was a freshman, we won the Mid-State Conference tournament for the first time in 22 years,” he said. “We’ve now won it three years in a row, and it would be great to do it again.”
Roberts also said the team has its sights set on winning the Johnson County tournament and sectional. “We want to go as far as we can.”
“Noah is a great teammate,” Snyder said. “He takes a great deal of interest in the success of the team and how his teammates are doing. He’s driven for success in everything he does on the court and in the classroom.”
The Grizzly Cubs open the season at home against Southport on Aug. 16.
Center Grove Trojans
Coach: Ivan Smith
Last year: 5-9, lost to Greenwood in Center Grove Sectional
Who’s back: Akul Vijay and Brant McCracken, seniors; Eli-Lawyer Smith, junior; Trey Thixton, Nic Ballesteros, Mitchell Runkle and Jordan Embrey, sophomores
Who’s gone: Sam Canner, Janesh Karnati, Ryan Stemle, Tye Thixton and Peter Golder
New kids on the block: None
Outlook: Entering his 40th year as head coach, Smith, the dean of all Johnson County coaches, is in the midst of rebuilding the Trojans. Always up against the best teams in the state, Center Grove normally fills out a regular starting lineup about midseason. Returning starters include Thixton, who appears to be next in line to move into the No. 1 singles position, in addition to Vijay and Lawyer-Smith.
Coach: Pete Khensouri
Last year: 6-11, lost to Columbus East in Columbus North Sectional
Who’s back: Tommy Schneider, Wyatt Kinney and Blade Elliott, seniors; Kegan Jones and Gavin Hancock, juniors; Coltan Henderson and Bladen Hancock, sophomores
Who’s gone: Parker Bryant, Kinser Bryant, Kyle Pendleton, Anthony Weber, Dalton Bieker and Chase Ford
New kids on the block: None
Outlook: “We’re still sorting out who’s available, especially in light of the fact of losing most of our starters to graduation, but I expect our returning letter winners will be ready to compete,” Khensouri said. The Lancers are slotted into a very tough sectional each year at Columbus North or Columbus East that also includes Hauser and Brown County.
Franklin Grizzly Cubs
Coach: Rod Snyder
Last year: 11-7, lost to Whiteland in Center Grove Sectional final.
Who’s back: Noah Roberts and Jacob Rockey, seniors; Logan Snyder, Ethan Klem and Jonah Rockey, juniors; Josiah Rockey, sophomore
Who’s gone: Brett Blakley
New kids on the block: None
Outlook: With six of their seven starters returning, the Grizzly Cubs are in an ideal position for continued success this season. Franklin, under the leadership of veteran coach Rod Snyder, won the Mid-State Conference championship for the third consecutive year. At the top of the lineup is returning No. 1 singles player Roberts, who advanced to the final eight in the IHSAA state singles tournament.
Coach: Justin Moran
Last year: 10-7, Lost to Franklin in Center Grove Sectional semifinal
Who’s back: Jack O’Reilly and Alex Walsh, seniors; Jacob Gray, Grant Bryant and Jaden Brestnesco, juniors; Jacob Rothaar, sophomore
Who’s gone: Brad Rothaar and Zach Lester
New kid on the block: Ben Sobieray, freshman
Outlook: After coming away with a 3-2 upset win against Center Grove in last year’s sectional, Moran said the team has high expectations this year. “The kind of preparation we put in last year for postseason was a real confidence-builder, so we hope there will be a carryover,” he said.
Indian Creek Braves
Coach: Dave Broshears
Last year: 10-4, Lost to Whiteland in Center Grove sectional semifinal
Who’s back: Trace Zachary, Cole Harris, Dalton Campbell and Bryce Waddell, seniors; Scott Russell and Blake Butler, juniors
Who’s gone: Brett Maulden, Riley Tharpe and Carson Adams
New kids on the block: Jeremy Lee, Max Walls, Maharshi Patel and Eric Braughton, seniors; Kyle Lime, junior; Hunter Ankey, Brett Conner, Dustin Hamblen and Cody Hart, sophomores, Mitchell Walls, Rafe Rayback, Dylan Cangany and Andrew Long, freshmen
Outlook: Big changes and new challenges are on the way this year for the Braves, longtime members of the Mid-Hoosier Conference. Indian Creek is now a member of the Eastern Division of the Western Indiana Conference, which includes defending champion Brown County, Edgewood and Owen Valley. “We should be in a good spot with five of the seven starters back on court,” Broshears said.
Coach: Mike Gillespie
Last year: 16-5, lost to Perry Meridian in Center Grove Regional semifinal
Who’s back: Adam Zietlow, Ricardo Gonzales and Andrew DeLuca, seniors; Caleb Scott, Austin Taylor and Noah Thompson, juniors; Cory Ulrich, Grant Cloud and Nolan Lee, sophomores
Who’s gone: Sam Venter, Aaron Scott, Josiah Adkins and Blake Surface
New kids on the block: Garrison Pelfree, Mason Laugle and Lane Stephenson, freshmen
Outlook: Despite the loss of four starters from a sectional championship squad, veteran coach Gillespie is looking forward to the start of the new season. “We always strive to compete, play well and most importantly, have fun,” he said. With the return of three experienced starters and continued roster depth, expectations are high again this year.