They used to call him “Little Mitch.” But not anymore.
Tecumseh junior tennis player Mitch Foland has outgrown that moniker by four inches since last spring. And while his new height of 5-foot-8 isn’t towering, he is a stronger, more offensive player who has become one of the best in the area.
“Now I have a better chance,” he said.
Foland is playing No. 1 singles for the Arrows for the second straight year. Last year he advanced to districts and lost in the first round. This year he wants more. He’s already proven himself as a candidate for player of the year in the Central Buckeye Conference.
Foland lost 6-4, 6-3 to Shawnee senior Danny Detrick, the three-time CBC Player of the year, in a conference match two weeks ago. But at Saturday’s Clark County Tournament, Foland rallied to a 9-7 victory over Detrick. Foland trailed 3-0, 4-1, 4-3 and 7-5 before winning the final four games.
Foland and his teammates are 10-1 and 7-0 in the CBC and well on pace for a third straight conference title. It’s hard not to look ahead. Especially when your coach expects you to earn one of the four sectional seeds.
“I hope I can get a higher seed going into districts, hopefully win my first-round match and then see what goes on from there,” Foland said.
As Foland grew he continued to work on his game. He said his forehand is harder with more topspin. He keeps his backhand flat, making it more difficult to return.
“He did not really have the power to get the edge, to get the advantage,” Arrows coach Sean Bragg said. “That would be the big difference going into this season. He’s kept all the same strokes, but now when he wants to be offensive he can. He can hit the ball a lot harder.”
Foland’s serve is about the same, but he’s happy with it.
“It’s not a 90-mph serve that’s going to destroy people, but it’s consistent and you can’t hit a winner off of it much,” he said. “I just try to place, make them reach for it and set up my second shot.”
Foland’s rise has coincided with the Arrows’ rise to the top of the CBC. But Bragg did not foresee the season the Arrows are having. Foland and No. 2 singles player Michael Green are the only returning starters. The other five starters are sophomores and freshmen.
“Rolling into this season my expectations were not that we were going to be in first place,” said Bragg, in his seventh year as coach at his alma mater. “A lot of these kids were JVs last year, but they did all their homework in the offseason and they’ve come out and are hitting really good tennis.”
Foland’s offseason work since he began playing as an 8-year-old has included hitting with and learning from his dad. Bob Foland still plays competitively at Schroeder Tennis Center in Tipp City. In the winter, Mitch Foland gets lessons there and plays in tournaments.
“His game is very good and he makes me hit hard shots,” Mitch Foland said.
This is Foland’s breakout season, so he’s thinking about college and scholarship money. Bragg is ready to help.
“Every year he’s been toward the top of the lineup, every year he’s still improving, and I expect that next year,” Bragg said. “He has to be one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”