The record Ty McCullars has assembled playing singles for Whiteland is a tribute to his unwillingness to change as much as anything else.
Now a senior, he’s not about to start now.
Standing 6-foot, 145 pounds, McCullars has won nearly 90% of his matches (60 of 67) by getting the opponent to play his unique style of tennis rather than the other way around.
“Nobody wants to play him, because he’s very frustrating to play against,” Whiteland coach Mike Gillespie said of McCullars, who held a 24-0 mark at No. 2 singles last season until losing to Center Grove’s Daksh Patel in the championship round of the sectional. “Very few people play the way Ty does because it requires so much discipline and patience.”
McCullars made his varsity debut as a freshman, representing the Warriors as the No. 3 singles player. He moved up a spot in the lineup the past two seasons with since-graduated Quinten Gillespie and Dylan Gross occupying the top spot in the lineup in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
This time around, McCullars, sophomore Spencer Gillespie and junior Carson Baumann are in the hunt to play No. 1 singles. Regardless of the order coach Gillespie opts for, Whiteland, fresh off a 19-3 season that included a Mid-State Conference title, promises to count singles as a strength.
The Warriors open the season with a dual match at Avon on Aug. 13.
Coach Gillespie, now in his 21st season in charge of the Whiteland program, celebrates his 275th career boys win in the match against the Orioles; his girls teams have won another 207. During his career, he has witnessed more than his share of playing styles, successful and otherwise. Power, finesse or something in between.
McCullars knows what he can and can’t do, and doesn’t waver.
“Ty is a very patient player,” coach Gillespie said. “He does a nice job of controlling the ball and putting it wherever he wants.”
“I use my head more than my strength,” McCullars added. “I try to play to my opponent’s weaknesses.”
Unlike a lot of Johnson County’s better high school tennis players who were practicing serves and ground strokes in elementary school, if not earlier, McCullars didn’t become interested in the sport until sixth grade.
“If you had told me I might be the No. 1 singles player, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” McCullars said. “I was just playing tennis with some friends for fun, but around seventh and eighth grade, I started putting more time into it and starting to really enjoy tennis.
“I like the people and the atmosphere.”
Whiteland completed the 2021 regular season ranked 24th in the state; McCullars and Gross were named honorable mention All-State.
McCullars aspires to continue achieving success, and do so at his own pace.
SCOUTING THE COUNTY
Center Grove Trojans
Coach: David Beasley
Last season: 12-6, won sectional and regional championships; lost to Zionsville at semistate
Key returnees: Evan Davis, senior; Max Williams, junior; Carson Bush, Tyler Lane and Daksh Patel, sophomores
Top newcomers: Loc Pham, senior; Michael Deem, Jack Dybwad, Max Fosnot and Louis Teed, freshmen
Outlook: The state’s leader in career victories, Ivan Smith, is now a Trojans assistant coach, while Beasley, an assistant the past two seasons, takes the reins. Beasley inherits a young but talented roster, led by Lane, who was the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year as a freshman.
“We have a great, young group returning this year, including six with heavy varsity experience. We only have two seniors who we are looking to guide this young team,” Beasley said. “This group has been training hard all offseason, including having the highest amount of offseason tournament showings in recent years. We will be looking towards our deep bench, which has been putting in a tremendous amount of work as well, to step up and fill in some key spots and be ready to compete at a moment’s notice.”
Coach: Pete Khensouri
Last season: 8-8, lost to Columbus North in first round of sectional
Key returnees: Max Blandford, senior; Austin Brockman, junior; Milas Burkman, sophomore
Top newcomers: Teddy Crawhorn, Braylon Lenkner and Bailey Totten, freshmen
Outlook: The upcoming season will be the third in a row with Blandford as the Lancers No. 1 single player. He was 8-5 last fall, while Brockman, who was 10-4 at the third singles spot, is expected to move up to No. 2 singles. “We have a pretty young team, and it hasn’t gelled together yet,” Khensouri said. “We’re hoping by midseason that we’re showing signs of progress.”
Franklin Grizzly Cubs
Coach: Rusty Hughes
Last season: 9-8, lost to Center Grove in first round of sectional
Key returnees: Caleb Funkhouser, Dylan Funkhouser and Pryce Rucker, seniors; Reid Davidson and Nathan Neville, sophomores
Top newcomer: Luke Sherry, freshman
Outlook: The top singles position will likely be filled by Caleb Funkhouser or Davidson, the Cubs’ second and third singles players, respectively, a year ago. Rucker also played the third spot when not competing at No. 2 doubles paired with Dylan Funkhouser. “We’re hoping to be the same or better than last year,” Hughes said. “I think we’ll have better depth and will keep building. We’re trying to be a better team in six weeks than we are now. Work ethic is everything, and I like this team’s work ethic.”
Coach: Jeremy Runge
Last season: 11-9, lost to Whiteland in sectional semifinal
Key returnees: Aidyn Green and Blake Reynolds, seniors; Noah Passwater, junior; Carter Chatham, sophomore
Top newcomers: Ben Cruser, senior; Will Davidson, junior; Ian Ratliff and Devin Weidner, sophomores
Outlook: “We have two singles players and two doubles players returning from last season,” Runge said. “There is a lot of internal competition for the last couple of remaining spots. We are looking forward to growing as a team this year.”
INndian Creek Braves
Coach: Mike Perry
Last season: 16-1, 8-0 in Western Indiana Conference; lost to Whiteland in sectional semifinal
Key returnees: Brendan Conner and Aiden Pemberton, seniors; Peyton Strunk and Trent Volz, juniors; Landon Sichting, sophomore
Top newcomers: Ryan Lengerich and Evan Schaub, seniors; Alan Ellis, Aaron Spurgeon and Jackson Wise, juniors; Grant Dalton, freshman
Outlook: Fresh off one of the finest seasons in school history, the Braves hope to carry the momentum into the weeks ahead. “Many of the boys have been working very hard on their game this past offseason, and this has pushed every one of them to get better,” Perry said. “Even though nothing is set in stone for this year’s lineup, we have the luxury of returning five varsity players and will have at least six others who will be competing to earn varsity time this year. This is a great problem for us to have, and it’s going to make those first couple weeks of practice very interesting to see where everyone shakes out.”
Coach: Mike Gillespie
Last season: 19-3, 7-0 in Mid-State Conference; lost to Center Grove in sectional championship match
Key returnees: Ty McCullars and Julian Prescott, seniors; Carson Baumann, Joey Brosnan, Chase Koester and Kai Koester, juniors; Spencer Gillespie, Jeremiah Hurt, Isaac Phegley and Gavin Stubbe, sophomores
Top newcomers: Tyler Copenhaver, Amos Hubler, Mason Levingston and Eashan Shelly, juniors; Yuvraj Badwal, Michael Linnehan and Haroon Mardanzai, sophomores; Quintin Gieseking, freshman
Outlook: Three Warriors are vying for the No. 1 singles spot. Regardless of who plays where, singles will be the strength of a squad more than capable of defending its conference championship. “We are looking forward to a great year,” Mike Gillespie said. “We are going to compete, be good people and have a bunch of fun.”