Boys tennis: Niwot’s Spencer Lang ready to uphold family tradition

Mark Leffingwell
Niwot’s Spencer Lang hopes to follow in his older brother’s footsteps by winning a state singles title for the Cougars.

NIWOT — If Spencer Lang had a do-over for his 2013 summer, he might take it in a heartbeat.

“The summer was a little rough,” he said.

The best part of his summer is that it’s now behind him. A wrist injury hampered what was supposed to be a summer of preparation for the upcoming high school season and his move to the top of the ladder at Niwot.

For Lang, who will play No. 1 singles for coach Miikka Keronen, the pressure to follow in his brother Harrison’s footsteps and keep the Class 4A No. 1 singles title under the same roof is really no big thing.

“It’s all about confidence and if you have confidence then there is no pressure,” said Lang, who finished runner-up to Colorado Academy’s Jesse Ruder-Hook at No. 2 singles last fall in Pueblo.

Said Keronen: “I don’t think he feels pressure, I think he feels lucky to have a brother like that. I have always said that I thought Spencer was a more talented player, he just competes so well. With the strokes and the game Spencer has, he can be as good or better than Harrison.”

Spencer Lang spent a majority of the past several months playing quality competition around the country and trying to understand where his game stacks up against the nation’s best. His latest trip to Kalamazoo, Mich., and the United States Tennis Association’s 18 and 16 National Championships earlier this month didn’t yield the type of results he was hoping for — a straight-sets loss to California’s Billy Rowe in the first round of the Main Draw event — but the chance to see where he stands and what he has to work on to get better are now at the forefront of his mind.

“I enjoyed the experience of playing at the highest level and I think it has helped me a lot,” said Lang, who partnered with Salt Lake City’s Azat Hankuliyev to advance to the second round of the doubles portion of the same tournament in Michigan.

Needless to say, it would be a lot better to be rolling into the high school season with a positive mindset, but a healthy wrist and a newfound hunger and passion for the game should offset any ill will towards June, July, and August.

“I’ve been looking forward to playing No. 1 singles ever since I started my high school career,” said Spencer Lang, whose brother is now settling in at Creighton University. “I’m excited for the season.”

In Keronen, Lang has one of the better hitting partners any high school player in the state could ask for. Keronen, a former All-American at Azusa Pacific, in addition to his duties at Niwot is still a teaching pro at the Ranch and is a regular in Colorado’s summer tennis tour that involves both the city and state opens.

“It’s awesome having him around,” Lang said. “To have him around and so close, and teach me the things about being a good player mentally. He can still portray everything because he is still playing.”

The move to the top spot on the roster should come with relative ease for Spencer Lang and something his coach knows will initially take a little getting used to, but once things get rolling it wouldn’t surprise him at all if he is in the mix come October 10-12 in Pueblo.

“It’s not going to be easy, but he has tools to do that. At the same time, there is a lot of competition,” Keronen said. “As a coach, I don’t think you can really prepare anybody for it, at the end of the day it’s up to them and how they take it. Spencer plays that caliber of competition all winter and summer long.

“You either have it our you don’t and I think he has it.”

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