By Joey Bennett
TERRE HAUTE — College tennis in the United States has evolved into an athletic version of the United Nations, with foreign players dominating the rosters at most schools.
Indiana State, for example, has seven players listed on the combined rosters for its men’s and women’s teams; 12 of those 14 players are foreigners.
IUPUI is trying to change that statistic and offer more collegiate tennis opportunities to domestic players. Four of the nine players on the Jaguars’ men’s team this year are American and all five of the IUPUI women’s players are from the U.S.
Each program has signed four players for the 2009-2010 season — with all eight of those players coming from Indiana and one on each program from the Wabash Valley.
West Vigo’s Joel Modesitt signed earlier this month to attend IUPUI, following a stellar high school career in which he went 14-2 in his senior year and was eliminated in the championship match of the Indiana High School Boys Tennis Individual Singles Tournament.
Modesitt said this week that the location and the campus at IUPUI were among his top reasons for choosing the school.
“I also thought Coach [Brandon] Currie was the kind of coach that would really help me take my game to the next level and help me improve,” Modesitt said. “The opportunity to play Division I was very enticing, and IUPUI also has a schedule that has many big time opponents.”
Modesitt took visits to Indiana State and the University of Indianapolis and also received interest from Marian, Brescia, Wabash and Eastern Illinois.
He credits his parents for providing the support necessary to achieve such a difficult childhood goal.
“It has always been my dream to play Division I college tennis,” Modesitt said. “My mom [Karen] got me started in tennis and has always been there to help me and even served as my assistant coach at West Vigo. My dad [Terry] has also supported me because he has driven me to tournaments my whole life and been one of my biggest fans. Their support has definitely allowed me to succeed.”
Modesitt also credits local instructors Mike Reynolds and Chris Strong and Indianapolis mentor P.A. Nilhagen for his success.
“I always thought that I had a chance at playing at that level, and in the past few years the realization sunk in when I started talking to college coaches,” Modesitt said. “I’m very excited that IUPUI gave me this opportunity and thankful to my parents and coaches for always supporting me.”
West Vigo Coach Bruce Hartrich predicts continued success for Modesitt.
“Joel is a fine young man and I believe he will do well at IUPUI,” Hartrich said. “He always gave me 100 percent on the practice court and in matches. He has a great attitude and is the kind of kid every coach loves to have on his team.
“Joel had a great 4 years at West Vigo and I believe he will do the same at IUPUI.”
On the women’s side of things, Bloomfield’s Bailey Maryfield also signed with the Jaguars earlier this month. She won 20 matches last spring in helping the Cardinals to a 17-3 record.
Maryfield was the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference tournament singles champion in 2008, earning all-conference honors.
“It is really great for Bailey to be able to go on and play tennis for a Division I school,” Bloomfield Coach Mike Canty told the Greene County Daily World. “Bailey is the first player out of the Bloomfield tennis program that has gone on to play college tennis at the Division I level. It will be tough competing at the next level, but she constantly works to improve her tennis skills in the offseason and I’m confident she will do well.”
The Jaguars may not be done yet in the Wabash Valley.
Hunter Bullock, Terre Haute South’s No. 1 singles player last spring, is listed by tennisrecruiting.net as the No. 5-ranked recruit in Indiana and the 38th-best player in the Midwest. According to the Web site, IUPUI has already extended a scholarship offer to Bullock with an interest level of “high” toward the THS senior.
Terre Haute North senior Brittany Farmer is listed as the No. 7 recruit in Indiana, but no prospective colleges are listed on her biography page.
• More recruiting news — Terre Haute South’s Jake Odum has made a well-publicized verbal commitment to play basketball at Indiana State, but did not sign a national letter-of-intent because he will not get a scholarship his first year.
ISU’s only senior this season is Jay Tunnell, and Rockville’s R.J. Mahurin had previously been targeted for that spot. He signed his letter-of-intent earlier this year.
ISU’s roster has frequently undergone change over the past six or seven years, so here’s hoping that something works out in the near future for Odum to be locked in as a Sycamore. He’s a keeper.
• Marshall senior basketballers Lucas and Logan Eitel did not sign during the early period. Their AAU coach last summer, former Sycamore Brad Miley, said recently that American University in Washington, D.C. (coached by former Virginia Cavalier Jeff Jones) was one of many schools keeping its eyes on the Illinois duo.
n Terre Haute North junior quarterback Chris O’Leary was limited this season due to a shoulder injury, and is scheduled for surgery Dec. 9. In spite of so much time on the sidelines, colleges are still very interested. O’Leary recently took a visit to Division I Western Kentucky and has also attracted interest from Louisville and many other schools.
• Former Northview standout Joe Evinger has been named a first-team all-conference offensive lineman for the College of the Canyons junior college squad in California. Evinger and his team finished the regular season undefeated and won their first-round playoff game last weekend.
The Los Angeles Daily News recently reported that Evinger, a 6-7, 340-pounder who runs a 5.3 40-yard-dash, is one of seven linemen that UCLA is evaluating.
Rivals.com lists Evinger as the No. 37 junior college recruit in the nation, giving him four out of five stars in its ranking system, and the fifth best offensive lineman. Three of the four higher ranked offensive linemen have already signed with Oklahoma State, Houston and Southern Mississippi.
The Web site lists Evinger’s top five schools as UCLA, Arizona State, Louisville, Texas Christian and Colorado.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at email@example.com.