Topeka — Changing a style of play during a tennis match is usually not a good idea.
Lawrence High's Scott Elwell bucked common sense, though, and took fifth place in the Class 6A state tournament Saturday in Topeka by making an effort to hit more balls on the rise on the advice of his coach, Dick Wedel.
"For weeks, I've been saying, 'Take the ball on the rise,'" Wedel said. "My point with him was that to be a better player he needs to do that, and I wanted him to practice that in a pressure match situation."
That tactic paid off, allowing Elwell to get to the net more often and speed up the pace against Wichita Northwest's scrappy junior, Ryan Reed, in Elwell's 9-5 victory for fifth place.
"I thought I played pretty well," Elwell said. "I mixed it up a little bit. I didn't just stay back on the baseline. I came up to the net a few more times than I usually do.
"The points went much quicker. I feel like if I work on taking the ball on the rise more and coming in, that will be a big help to my game."
Leading Reed, 5-4, and serving, Elwell fought through a break point and went up 6-4 and then broke Reed's serve for a three-game advantage.
Reed broke Elwell's serve to come within two games, 7-5, but Elwell broke Reed again and served for the match, leading 8-5.
Down 30-15, Elwell served to Reed's backhand, throwing off the junior who had seen one serve to his forehand after another, and tied the score at 30-all. After Reed hit a shot wide, Elwell put away a backhanded overhead for the victory.
Elwell, who finished the year at 23-7, defeated James Wiggins from Maize, 9-7, to advance to the fifth-place match.
"Last year he lost his last two matches and this time he won his last two," Wedel said. "That's the funny thing about the draw. I'm just really pleased. This is a tough, tough field. Had the draw been a little bit different the results might have been a little bit different, but we benefited from the draw last year and we didn't benefit this year. That's what they call the luck of the draw."
Elwell agreed that the draw was difficult, but said he'd use this experience in preparing for next year and his final chance at a state title.
"I was hoping to do a little better this year," he said. "This is by far the toughest draw I've ever had. I had no easy matches. Next year, as my senior year, this is a good incentive."