On Tuesday, Jack Sorel could focus on more than just himself.
The Lambert senior was intent on winning his own match against South Forsyth's Will Fullett, but he also offered encouragement towards the next court over, where teammate An Lenka was playing. After Sorel beat Fullett, he headed down to the lower courts at Sharon Springs Park to watch more of his teammates, gleefully providing commentary as Longhorns senior Garett McVay went to three sets against War Eagles junior Anish Bikmal.
Sorel hadn't really been able to do those things until now. This is his first year attending Lambert, having spent his first three years in high school taking online classes so that he could fully devote his time to the tennis tournament circuit. But after the Longhorns won the Class 7A state title last spring and subsequently lost their top two singles players, Sorel felt that his time had come.
"It was definitely a huge part of my decision, seeing their success last year," Sorel said.
Sorel, who will play at Kennesaw State next year, wants to help the Longhorns get their second straight state championship. And while the path there doesn't look as easy as last year, Sorel's presence was certainly essential on Thursday, as his 6-0, 6-1 win was Lambert's first step to a 3-2 team victory over South.
Sorel's win in the No. 1 singles match was by far the quickest match of the day. He showed a huge first serve, a willingness to play at the net and the agility to reach every corner fo the court.
Those skills will serve him well in college, but there were other things that Sorel needed to get used to – things that he couldn't find on the solitary tournament circuit – to prepare him for KSU. Going to school is one: Sorel figured it would be useful to relearn how to get up early in the morning, which he'll have to do in college, rather than continue the leisurely routine he adopted when he was homeschooled.
But college tennis has a team environment, too, and high school was the only place Sorel was going to find that.
"Having everyone support me is nice," Sorel said. "But honestly, I like supporting (others) better than I like being supported. Being there for the rest of the team and watching them grow and succeed as one, almost, is really rewarding."
The Longhorns rolled through most of their opponents last year, but that hasn't been the case so far this season. They've lost twice, 3-2 to Cambridge and 4-1 to Milton, and have had three more 3-2 wins. Lambert head coach Eric Hampton still sees a path to a title repeat, as does Sorel.
Of course, that's why he decided to text Hampton shortly after the season ended last year to ask a question: If I play, can we get another championship?
"I said, 'I can't guarantee anything,'" Hampton said. "'But, obviously, it would increase our chances.'"