Calvin Horning was expected to play first singles for the Grandview Heights boys tennis team this spring.

That would have pitted the senior against the top player for each opposing team. Given that the Bobcats are members of the MSL-Ohio Division, which features three traditionally strong programs in Bexley, Columbus Academy and Wellington, Horning would have faced some of the top players in the state, let alone central Ohio.

Horning believes he was ready for the challenge of playing first singles, but he didn't get the chance to prove it, as the spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"It's been pretty impressive to see how much I have grown since my freshman year, and I feel like I kept getting better going forward," Horning said. "In my freshman year, I bounced between playing third singles and doubles. We didn't have a deep team, so that gave me a lot of chances to play.

"That helped a lot because you get to see a wide mix of playing levels and it gives you a chance to see what you're up against. The league matches are always pretty tough because of the caliber of players you are going up against with the Academys, the Wellingtons and the Bexleys. That wide range of competition gives you a good way to find a way to be competitive."

Horning said he played tennis casually until he got to high school.

"I had never played competitive tennis when I was younger. I played with friends and stuff like that, but I wasn't experienced at all with competitive tennis," he said. "I think for me, I like how it's both an individual sport and a team sport. You still get the fun environment of playing with people on a team, but you also get the chance to get to prove yourself. It's only you out there (in singles).

"In my limited time playing before high school, I found out that I really liked it. Since we didn't have a middle school tennis team, I was excited to play in high school."

Coach Kathy Kinnard has enjoyed watching Horning evolve into a leader in the program.

"Calvin loves to play, and it shows," said Kinnard, whose team finished 10-5 overall and 1-4 in the MSL-Ohio last season. "He really has come a long way, and he's very consistent. He rarely beats himself, which is good in tennis. He's a smart player who plays within himself.

"He played a solid (second singles) for us behind (first-singles player and 2019 graduate) Brett Holcomb last year. He certainly is a good leader. Even when we had five consecutive days of practice, he was good at getting all the kids together to get things started. He also made sure that new kids felt a part of the team, which is important."

Horning went 1-1 last spring in a Division II sectional at Academy, but did not advance to district. Little did he realize that would be his final prep match.

"(Losing the season) has been rough, that's for sure," he said. "I was really looking forward to it.

"As a life lesson, you can't take things for granted. Last year, I had no idea that I wouldn't have a senior season. I had fun last year, but I would have had more fun if I had known (about this season)."

Horning has a 4.5 GPA and will attend Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he plans to major in urban studies.

"Because I go to a small school like Grandview, I wanted to go to a smaller college," he said. "My family and I take vacations to cities, and I always have enjoyed going to and learning about them, especially things like the subways and mass transportation. It took a while to figure out a way I could major in something like that, but I'm pretty excited about it."

Horning said Kinnard has been a positive influence in his life, both on and off the court.

"Coach is so amazing," he said. "She has done a good job of emphasizing how important that it is to enjoy yourself on the court. I'm competitive and get mad at myself, but she taught me how to keep my head in the game when things aren't going my way. That's important no matter what you do."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen