CONCORD, Mass. -- Meet Alex Steinroeder off the court and you will find a quiet, unassuming young man just going about his business.
Meet him on the tennis court, well ... that’s a completely different story.
The Concord-Carlisle senior has captured the last two Div. 1 MIAA state individual tennis titles, and has been an integral part of team state championships in 2008 and 2009. That success got the college recruiters calling, with Harvard ultimately winning the services of arguably the state’s best high school tennis player.
You won’t hear a grunt, a groan or even an extreme outburst of emotion as you see him play, but that doesn’t mean a fiery, quiet assassin isn’t waiting for that bright yellow ball to come in his direction.
“I’ve learned how to stay calm on the court,” said the 6-foot-1 Steinroeder. “A big part of it is mental. If you can control that aspect, then you will be a lot better off.”
Steinroeder began learning the game with his father, Bill Steinroeder, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
The young Steinroeder, who said he learned his sense of calmness from his father, moved his way through USTA-sanctioned tournaments in New England, and when his family moved to Massachusetts, the name Steinroeder was well-known in the local tennis circuit.
So well known that Patriots’ head coach Alex Spence inserted the then-freshman into the No. 1 singles spot on a very experienced squad.
“He came in a real serious tennis player,” said Spence. “He was top three in his age group. Just spending the season with him freshman year, you saw how dedicated he was to the game.”
But being a new student, in a new state, on a new team and taking over the No. 1 spot brought a little extra pressure.
“I kind of felt bad in some ways,” said the humble Steinroeder. “There were seniors who played No. 1 for two or three seasons. I came in at No. 1 and I felt the pressure to perform. It helped that we had such a strong team that year. It never really came down to my match.”
Steinroeder played in the top singles all season long, and helped the Patriots win the team title that season.
However, the skinny, 5-foot-7 freshman got a lesson that has stuck with him to this day in the individual semifinals, when he fell in straight sets (6-2, 6-1) to Falmouth’s Joe Delinks after not losing a match all season long.
“The kid beat me pretty badly,” said Steinroeder. “It was good to come back in sophomore year with something to strive for.”
Steinroeder has learned from that loss — with a little help from a growth spurt that saw him put on more weight, and close to six inches — and has changed up his offensive tactics in that span. Before, he liked to play a counter-punch game where he would play more defensive and take away his opponent’s strengths.
Now he forces the action with a strong kick serve and an array of shot-making skills.
“If an opponent had a big forehand, the kid wouldn’t see many forehands throughout the match. Alex would win the match that way,” said Spence. “He doesn’t need to do that now, because he can win with any of his own shots. He just keeps coming after his opponent. Even when he is down, he keeps coming after you.”
Added Steinroeder: “As the years have gone on I’ve gotten a little more offensive and been able to attack more. Since I have that old defensive game I can mix it up. I think my variety helps a lot.”
The rest of the state will be smiling when they hear that Steinroeder won’t be in the running for a third consecutive state individual title. His older brother will be gradating from college on the same weekend as the individual tournament, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t be readying the Patriots for one last run at the state team title before he’s off to try and be the new kid in the Ivy League.
“I never really think about the individual until we get there, because you are with the team and you practice every day,” Steinroeder said about knowing in advance that he can’t defend his crown. “I don’t think it will be too different. The goal will be to help the team win.”