HIBBING — Before his junior season, Carter Anderson found himself at the bottom of Hibbing coach Gary Conda’s lineup, playing either third or fourth singles.
Do that, however, was teaching Anderson a valuable lesson — how to be more confident and smooth as a player.
Those lessons have paid off handsomely for Carter, who became the first-singles player for the Hibbing High School boys tennis team his junior season.
Anderson relished that role, and played it to near perfection, winning between 65- and 75-percent of his matches.
For that reason, Anderson has been named the Mesabi Daily News, Hibbing Daily Tribune and Grand Rapids Herald Review Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
For Conda, there was no other choice but Anderson to fill that spot.
“He always had all of the shots,” Conda said. “He had good acceleration on his swing, and he can hit a ball off of either side of his body. He ambidextrous. He can hit with either hand.”
Anderson actually started as a seventh grader, and he credits his older teammates for making him the player he is today.
“We had a good team,” Anderson said. “All of the players taught me a lot to get to where I am today. I learned to be more confident, and that it’s OK to make a mistake because they happen.
“It was because of my work ethic and practicing all of the time. I wanted to work hard to get into that spot. I saw players in that spot, and that’s what I wanted to be like.”
Anderson, who also plays hockey for the Bluejackets, would take the time after hockey practice to travel to the Quad Cities Indoor Tennis Facility to hit balls. He would work with Garrett Lamppa, and his father, Brian.
“I always made time for it, at least once a week,” Anderson said. “I didn’t get to play that much, but once hockey ended, I started to play more.”
During his sophomore season, Anderson was backing up seniors Jack Kearney and Jake Jolowsky, so he knew his time was coming.
Once his junior season started, Anderson was thrust into the No. 1 position, and there were some growing pains.
“It wasn’t easy,” Conda said. “He could see he had to work hard at it. He had to get mentally tougher and be more consistent, so he could stay with those No. 1 players. During the rough times, I was keeping him positive. That’s always hard.
“He was hard on himself, to be honest. He’s kind of a perfectionist in a way. He wanted to end a point quickly, so it took a few speeches to tell him that consistency wins more than hitting it hard. He figured that out this year.”
Playing No. 1 singles was an eye-opener for Anderson last year.
“During my first couple of matches, it was a big transition,” Anderson said. “After awhile, I started getting used to it. It was the pace of play. They don’t miss much at first singles. It was different.
“I wanted to be more confident in myself and trust my play. I would hit with Garrett. He taught me new techniques. He taught me how to get better. He’s so consistent. He smacks the ball hard at you, and that made me a lot better.”
It was Anderson’s consistency at that spot that helped guide the Bluejackets to the Section 7A title this season.
“The fact that we’re playing him at No. 1, he’s helping the rest of the team because at two, three and four, we had a better chance at winning,” Conda said. “That’s what creates depth on your team.
“When you’re No. 1 player can win 70-percent of the time, it helps right down the line. He made all of the difference in the world for us. He could play with anybody, and unleash that power when he needed it.”
Even with as much as Anderson accomplished on the court this season, there’s still some unfinished business on the court.
“I can’t beat my dad yet,” Anderson said with a chuckle. “He refused to lose. He’ll dive and do anything to win. That’s how I got my competitiveness.”
Joining Anderson on the All-Area team are his teammates Ryan Osborne and Dominic Warzecha, Mark Borland and Joe Dwyer; Joe Hafdahl, Jace Westerbur and Ryan Scherf of Virginia; and Robbie Licari, Noah Sandnas and Jared Delich of Eveleth-Gilbert.