Levin's determination leads to top tennis spot in second year of play

Saturday, April 18, 2009 | 8:02 p.m. CDT; updated 8:13 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 18, 2009
Hickman tennis player Ben Levin returns a serve in practice. Levin is only in his second year of competitive tennis, but he is already playing at the No. 1 singles position for the Kewpies.

COLUMBIA – At a Hickman tennis practice, junior Ben Levin continued to work on his game as he heard his coach yelling.

“Come on Levin!” coach Andy Materer yelled. “No points! Just step up and learn!”

Levin has used his athletic ability and determination to emerge as one of Hickman’s top tennis players this season.

“It’s difficult advice that’s not going to come easy,” Materer said. “He just has to hear it from me over and over again.”

Teammate and friend Jay Chenault told Levin he should try out for the tennis team. Levin had never played competitively, but wanted to stay in shape for soccer.

“I didn’t really expect to play varsity,” Levin admitted. “I expected to be one of the J.V. (junior varsity) players. I had no expectations to play varsity my first season.”

“It was actually really frustrating,” senior John Prost said. “I played two challenge matches against Ben and I was so amazed because he was a soccer player. He was just a walk-on. It was frustrating, but in the end it was worth it.”

Last year, Levin claimed the No. 4 singles spot. This year, Levin has played mostly at either No. 1 or No. 2 singles.

Levin works hard every match and giving a “Ben Levin effort” has become a common phrase used by Materer.

“He’s a very tough match to play,” Materer said. “Opposing teams don’t want to play him because he’ll dive for balls. He’s very quick. If you play Ben, you’re going to have to win the match. I’ve never seen him give away a match.”

Levin already has been matched up against the last year’s state singles champion senior John Lazenby of Joplin and freshman standout Ford Zitsch of Rock Bridge.

“Playing potential state champs is going to help him,” Materer said. “He has to lose a couple times to understand what he has to. He’s going to figure it out. It’s whether he figures it out in two weeks, this season or in the summer.

“We need him in a big way next year. If he improves as much as he did between his sophomore and junior years, he’ll be one of the top players in the district next year. I love him as the No. 1 player and a leader because he competes hard every match. You can’t get disappointed in your team if they give a Ben Levin effort.”

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Duncan Nelson April 27, 2009 | 10:58 a.m.

"He's a very tough match to play."
That's his granddfather "back in the day" --
For, like Ben, though my form
Was "beneath the norm"
I NEVER gave matches away!

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