Over the years, Will Horton would play tennis with his father, Todd, for fun in the summers.
He didn’t become serious about the sport until he reached Apponequet High School and cracked the varsity lineup his freshman year.
When Horton blew through the competition at third singles and finished with an undefeated record, he decided to dedicate himself to offseason training.
It paid off.
He jumped up two spots and was nearly unbeatable at first singles this spring, earning The Standard-Times Boys Tennis Player of the Year award.
“It was exciting,” the 16-year-old Horton said. “I was working for that to happen. I like the higher competition every match.”
Going up against the area’s best tennis players, Horton finished the year with an overall record of 16-1 with his lone loss coming against non-league opponent Luke Bloom-Glover of Dartmouth with Horton battling a back injury.
Horton won every one of his matches in the South Coast Conference to help the Lakers wrap up their third straight conference title. He also won the SCC Individual tournament championship, beating 2022 Standard-Times Boys Tennis Player of the Year Kole Pinto, and was named conference MVP.
“What inspires me is my will to win,” Horton said. “I just like winning.”
Enjoying so much success as a freshman made Horton hungry for more so he spent time in the offseason working on his game and playing as much tennis as possible.
“We had a really good team my freshman year and it made me want to get better,” Horton said. “Over the summer I played a lot with friends and I’d do any practice I could get.”
Apponequet head coach Nate Eleuterio isn’t surprised with how much Horton has improved over a year.
“He’s just naturally athletic,” Eleuterio said. “I feel like he clicked with tennis. Once he played and saw how successful he could be, he put in a lot of time to get better because he wanted that number spot.
“I knew he was going to be at least my number two. He kept saying, ‘I’m coming for Nate (Belmore).’ They’re really good friends. They’re great for each other.”
Horton had to dethrone teammate Nate Belmore for the top spot. He said that pushed him to work even harder.“Nate is the second singles on Apponequet and I play with him a lot now even out of school,” Horton said.
Horton’s mental game is his biggest strength.
“On the court, his IQ and understanding of the situation he’s in and what he has to exploit it,” Eleuterio said. “He’ll find out what works and he’ll hammer that.”
Horton agreed, “A lot of times when I play against people I don’t hit harder than them or have better shots, but I can pinpoint their weakness and exploit it. I like that it’s an individual sport and you can win or lose the game yourself.”
ALL ABOUT WILL HORTON
WHY HE WAS SELECTED: Horton went undefeated at first singles in the South Coast Conference to help the Lakers capture their third straight conference title. His lone loss of the season came against Dartmouth’s Luke Bloom-Glover in non-league action.
KEY STATS: Horton went 16-1 at first singles and won the South Coast Conference Individual tournament championship.
MVP MOMENT: Horton was most proud of his 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 win over Fairhaven’s Kole Pinto on May 21. Pinto was the 2022 Standard-Times Boys Tennis Player of the Year. “It was a close one and it felt good to win it,” Horton said.
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FAIRHAVEN COACH MIKE GOMES: “Will Horton is a very intelligent tennis player. We had a game plan for him and he was able to adapt his game plan. He’s one of the more intelligent players I’ve seen and he’s got all the shots too.”
NOTES: Horton lives in Lakeville. He has a younger sister, Elise, who plays volleyball at Apponequet. … He’s already set his goals for next spring. “Individually I don’t want to lose,” he said. “As a team I want to go far in the state playoffs.”
This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Apponequet’s Will Horton is 2023 Boys Tennis Player of the Year