2016 Boys Tennis Player of the Year: Sherando’s Spieles makes steady progress at No. 1 spot

Sherando's Cameron Spieles returns a shot from Millbrook's Haydon Wilfong on May 13 in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STEPHENS CITY –This year was a learning experience for Sherando’s Cameron Spieles.

The junior boys tennis player had to move up to the No. 1 singles position this season. It wasn’t easy going up against some high-caliber competition, but Spieles steadily showed improvement.

“Dr. J. (Sherando coach Steve Jennings) and everyone there was helping to coach me,” Spieles said. “Then I started noticing a lot of matches were getting close, and I just had to get over that little hump.”

One of Spieles’ biggest rivals this season was Millbrook’s No. 1 singles player Hayden Wilfong. The Millbrook junior advanced to regionals in individual singles.

Spieles wasn’t able to beat Wilfong this season, but he had several very close matches with him.

“My first match against (Wilfong). I lost 8-10,” Spieles said. “He started up 4-1 and then it was 7-6. We kept switching. I know Hayden’s a really good opponent, and I realized ‘OK I can beat him. I just have to play well.'”

It’s not the first time Spieles has had to make a big jump in playing level at Sherando.

Last year Spieles moved from the No. 6 spot to No. 2.

“I was kind of scared honestly, because going from 6 to 2 is a pretty big jump,” Spieles said. “My freshman year I only played singles. I didn’t even play doubles. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I had a lot of fun out there. When you’re playing against older people ultimately you’re getting better. So it was a lot of fun.”

The 6-foot-3 Spieles has plenty of strengths on the court. He has a big forehand and a big serve, but said he struggles with his second serve.

Jennings said one of the biggest things Spieles needs to work on is his consistency.

“We’ve talked a lot about him winning the big points,” Jennings said. “I think that his matches, they were close, and it was just not winning the major points, the big points, that kept him from getting over the hump. I think now he’s got to get through that next level of winning the major points, the big points and the tiebreakers, and those ad-ins and making sure that he’s taking care of those points well. I think that’s what’s going to help him. That’s what’s going to get him through that next hurdle.”

Jennings said he’s also trying to get Spieles to change his grip on his backhand to make it more effective.

Spieles said that he began playing tennis in middle school when his brother Andrew played at Sherando.

Cameron Spieles said his game has been helped a lot by hitting with his brother.

“That’s the main person that hits with me and shows me what I need to work on and doing wrong,” Spieles said of his brother. “When we first started out he would always beat me, and so I’m like all right I want to get to where I can beat him. Now I can beat him and so now he wants to beat me. We go back and forth, and we push each other.”

He said he has never had any formal lessons, but may take some this year in the offseason.

Much like Cameron Spieles, a young Warriors’ squad went through a learning experience this season. Sherando finished 5-10, and he said he was pleased with how they did.

“I think they did really well,” he said. “There’s always those learning curves and those rookie bumps and everything to get over. But ultimately I think we did really well. I think we did better than people expected us to do. Even though we didn’t have a winning record, but we lost our 1, 3 and 5 last year. So people weren’t really expecting us to do that well. I’m really looking forward to next season.”

He said he was happy with the season he had, and going through this season will help make him a better player.

“It was just like a learning curve,” he said. “I know what I have to do next year, now, to play at No. 1. So that’s something I have to work on.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com