Growing up watching his sisters excel on the tennis court has netted some nice dividends for Dugan Delp.
A family tennis tradition continues to be carried on at Central Catholic by Delp, a senior who has not lost this season.
He won his third consecutive Three Rivers Athletic Conference No. 1 singles titles, has a 21-0 record, and has yet to even lose a set this season.
The two-time state qualifier is following in the tennis shoes of his sisters, Morgan and Sydney, who qualified for the state tournament in doubles three straight years (2008-10) for the Irish.
Delp, who has a 71-8 record in his three seasons as Central's No. 1 singles player, credits his consistency to his siblings.
“They’ve made a big difference,” he said. “Being able to play all the time and watching it all the time and being surrounded by the sport has been such a great help. The more you watch, the more you know and the more you learn.”
Morgan, a 2011 graduate, won two straight City League No. 1 singles titles. Sydney, a 2012 Central graduate, qualified for state all four years. The sisters won one doubles match in the 2010 state tournament.
Central coach Jesse MacDonald said Dugan has two younger siblings, a brother and sister, who also play at a high level.
“The whole family is accomplished tennis players,” MacDonald said. “Morgan and Sydney are extremely athletic and very good tennis players. And I think Dugan is keeping that going with his play.”
Dugan beat Findlay’s Reid Teatsorth 6-1, 6-4 to capture the TRAC title this season.
“It’s gone fast. It’s been a blink of an eye. It’s scary and exciting,” he said.
As a freshman Delp lost in the final of the City League tournament to eventual state champion Evan Bechtel of St. John’s Jesuit.
“I was up against a senior from St. John’s and lost in the final,” Delp said. “But after that one I knew I wanted to get it, and I could be that senior that everyone wanted to be when it came my turn. I just wanted to play every match the best I could, and I knew if I did that, I would hopefully come out unscathed.”
Delp has qualified for state as a sophomore and junior. But he lost in the first round both times.
“The competition is always so stiff at state,” he said. “I haven’t made it past the first round there yet. It’s do or die. One and done. I would love to make it to the second day.
“It’s nice to have been there before. I know what’s going to happen. I’ll be more prepared.”
Delp said it has helped to grow up in a tennis family. His father, Cleves, played football and baseball at Central. His mother, Kathy, played tennis for the Irish.
Dugan said he was his sisters’ No. 1 fan.
“I was at all of their matches and always cheering and watching,” he said. “I probably got more frustrated when they lost than they did.
“Growing up it’s always been about when I could take the classes that Morgan and Sydney take. And can I be as good as them? And can I beat them?” he said.
Dugan finally reached their level of play and won a match against them when he was in the eighth grade. Morgan was a junior and Sydney was a sophomore.
“Finally being able to do that was a big deal," he said. “Freshman year I was able to practice with them after school with their team. I was able to beat them up a little bit and help them out.”
Dugan will reunite with his sisters at Hillsdale College, where he will help coach the women's team. Hillsdale does not have a men's team.
MacDonald said Dugan has always been extremely tough mentally.
“That has been a tremendous advantage for us,” MacDonald said. “That has allowed us to focus on the physical aspect of his game, and those have rounded out tremendously.”
MacDonald said Delp has one of the best backhands he has ever seen and is confident at the net.
“We've worked hard on his forehand to be more consistent and then to attack on the ball. He's worked hard on being aggressive on defensive positions,” MacDonald said. “He's always been accomplished at the net. You combine all of those things and Dugan is certainly an all court player.”
Dugan said his biggest improvement has been with his serve.
“It's been helpful to my game. It's a weapon,” he said. “It's such an advantage to be confident in winning your own serve. That takes pressure off the return and then you start to return better. That puts the confidence in you and the pressure on them.”
MacDonald said he believes Delp has the ability to reach the second day of the state tournament, which requires winning twice on the first day. The sectional begins today.
“It's the best of the best,” he said. “Anyone who looks to make it to the second day has to serve well and they have to be confident. I think Dugan is in a really good place about the way he is playing.”
Delp said his style is to be steady and opportunistic.
“I try to be as consistent as I can and then come to the net when I can and hopefully take advantage of any opportunities,” he said. “I don't try to blast the player off the court too early. I'm conservative until I get the chance and then you have to go for it.”