tennis courts, his task was simple: Try to smash the balls over the
fence. Now, that was fun to young Dylan. Twelve years later, Schrode, a senior at Solon High School, has quite a different goal with racket in hand: Win a championship.
Now, that was fun to young Dylan.
Twelve years later, Schrode has quite a different goal with racket in hand: Win a championship.
The Solon High School senior has taken the trip to Columbus in each of his first three seasons. After being ousted in his initial match of the Division I state tournament in both 2005 and 2006, he managed to slide into the second round last season. But like most of his peers from Northeast Ohio, he has found it tough to advance.
This, he insists, is going to be his year.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” says Schrode, who steamrolled through the sectional competition last weekend. “I think this is my year to win it. I know my game and I know my opponents and I know I’m going to bring my best game. I’m going to leave it all on the court.”
Schrode lost to Sumanth Chittajallu of Upper Arlington in his opening match of the state tournament as a freshman and fell to eventual finalist Sandy Berry of Cincinnati Sycamore in the first round the following year. Last season he defeated Sean Carr of Upper Arlington before losing to perennial champion Matt Allare of Kings Mill Kings.
Early in middle school, Schrode would have never imagined that he would be competing at the highest levels in high school tennis. He had begun taking lessons at age nine in Chagrin Falls and elevated his level of competition to tournament play two years later. But his passion at the time was baseball.
That sport, however, faded into the background when he began excelling with the racket. When Schrode began placing as much mental emphasis on his game as he did his physical skills, he started to rise rapidly in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) ranks.
Schrode is now rated 13th in the Midwest in the 18-and-under age category. He works on his baseline game and ground strokes with coach Kevin Vaughn of the Beechmont Country Club and more specifically on his serve with North Ridgeville pro Rich Mostardi. He boasts a brilliant forehand and now feels comfortable slamming a kick, slice kick or flat serve at any time. Then he works on keeping his opponent off-balance.
“I like coming to the net off my first serve,” he says. “I try to come up off my serve at least once a game. But I like to mix it up. There’s no set formula.”
It doesn’t do any good, however, when Schrode isn’t consistently nailing his first serve. An inconsistent first serve forces him to the baseline and emboldens his opponents. And he knows that would spell disaster, particularly against the talent likely awaiting him in Columbus.
“My first serve percentage definitely has to be there,” he admits. “That allows me to be aggressive. And when I have my forehand working, it’s lights out.”
Another advantage for Schrode this year is that he’s a senior. He felt a bit overwhelmed in Columbus as a freshman, then played well in 2006 and 2007. His experience should provide a steadiness that is necessary to thrive in the state tournament.
And when it’s over, he will look forward to playing college tennis at the University of Richmond, which competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference. He is also considering a career in accounting, though his cardiologist father certainly wouldn’t mind if his son followed in his footsteps.
For now, though, the only footsteps Dylan Schrode is concerned with are the ones he leaves around the tennis courts at the state tournament. He would like to at least be one of the last two Division I players leaving those footsteps.
After all, it’s his last chance.