Making it to the high school state tennis championship was the last thing on the mind of Francis Howell North sophomore Will Schellman just more than a year ago.
Schellman had never picked up a tennis racket until February of 2017. But he will be in the field of 16 in the Class 2 singles state tournament next May 25-26 at Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
He had an impressive 6-1, 6-2 victory Monday over Yusef Albalushi of Hazelwood West in the individual sectional tournament at McCluer North. The winners of each of the two singles and doubles matches from the eight sectional tournaments in Class 1 and 2 qualify for the state tournament.
"I didn't really know much or think much of tennis until recently," said Schellman, who had played basketball and soccer previously. "Now I love absolutely everything about the game."
Schellman learned the basics from Chris Dunn and then developed his game by working with former Howell North standout Matt Dunn, Chris' son, who is now at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
"I went piece by piece," Schellman said. "We worked on the serve, the forehand, the backhand, footwork and movement."
Schellman cracked the varsity lineup as a freshman at the bottom of the lineup at No. 6 singles.
He worked hard on his game last summer and has been at the No. 1 singles spot for Howell North this spring.
"I have played some good players, like (three-time state singles champion) Carson Haskins (of Parkway South), during the season, but the experience of playing No. 1 has matured me as a player," Schellman said.
And also prepared him for his win-or-go-home match Monday against Albalushi.
Schellman was in control throughout and yelled out a "come on" when he closed out the match.
"I was tentative at first today but I was able to loosen up and get the job done," Schellman said.
He has no delusions about winning a state title but knows the game enough that a possible win or two at state depends mainly on one thing.
"It's all going to depend on the draw," Schellman said. "All I know is that I am going to just enjoy being there."
Schellman will be joined by a pair of Howell North teammates as Dev Patel and Brendan Schmidt won their sectional doubles match against McCluer North's Adam Gibbons and Zach Stevens, 6-4, 6-1.
Parkway Central also will be sending a singles player and doubles team to state.
Central's Cody Zhang advanced by beating Levi Buerk of Hazelwood West, 6-2, 6-0.
"I didn't play my best today," said Zhang, who was a state qualifier in doubles last year. "I didn't come into the match with the right mindset."
The Colts doubles team of Charlie Rodgers and Alex Shervin cruised in their match against Robbie Hamilton and Jalen Walker-Wright of McCluer, winning 6-0, 6-0.