Love of the game keeps Centre's Dexter coming to the tennis court

April 01, 2004|JILL ERWIN

Sometimes it's hard for Stephen Dexter. There have been times during this tennis season when Dexter has been on the outside looking in.

The Danville High School graduate has sat in the bleachers, watching younger Centre players on the court while he spends part of his senior season as a supportive teammate.

An influx of six freshmen, as well as a solid stable of sophomores, juniors and seniors, has cut down Dexter's time on the court. But the change hasn't diminished his appreciation of the game.

"It's hard, a little bit, but I love the game," Dexter said. "I love it enough to come out here and compete day to day."


But tennis matches aren't the only things taking up space in Dexter's day planner on a day-to-day basis.

Surely someone who is in the final semester of his college life, who serves as student body president, who was on the homecoming court, who is waiting to hear from numerous law schools and who has already wrapped up his football career with a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship could use some time off.

So why does Dexter continue to show up for every practice, run every sprint as if it's his last and basically put himself on the line when he doesn't even know if he'll see the court?

"Sure I'm disappointed when I don't get to play a singles match, but I love competing, and when I get that chance I'm eager to jump on it," Dexter said. "It's been a great run. I've been very fortunate to be able to come to Centre and continue my athletic career. It's really been a blessing."

The No. 7 player last year

Last year, Dexter was the No. 7 player for the Centre men and got into a singles match whenever someone ahead of him was sick or gone because of classes. Now, with three other players between him and the No. 6 singles player, time on the court is harder to come by.

When he does get out there, he does it with an old friend. Former Danville teammate Bennett Clark is Dexter's doubles partner at No. 3 for Centre, and Dexter said the two have some history after playing in the regionals as doubles partners in high school.

Centre coach Matt Vonderbrink said he's thrilled to have Dexter on the team. Despite not being a star, Dexter is always into practice and ready to help the team in any way possible.

"I'm always pleased with Stephen Dexter," Vonderbrink said. "He's just a great kid. I wish everybody had the enthusiasm that he has at practice every day. Whether it's running sprints or doing drills, he likes to do it and he likes to be there. He's a fun guy to have around."

For Dexter, it's a way of getting the most out of his senior year. He said with so many young players, it's sometimes good to have an older player ease them into the world of college athletics.

"It's great, but it's a game"

"Division III athletics is so cool because you keep everything in perspective," Dexter said. "I can show these young guys that we can come out here, we can have a blast, we can be super-competitive and still have a good time. It's nice to have someone around to say, 'Listen. It's great, but it's a game.'"

Dexter is majoring in English and government and wants to go into public service when he gets through with school. With all the demands on his time, he has to set strict schedules to get things accomplished. But he said that's when he thrives the most, and the multitude of tasks helps him grow.

"I think that balance or variety is what makes my life interesting," Dexter said. "I have fun in everything I do. I can be studious in my intellectual work, a fierce competitor in the athletic fields and then my service to the campus is a good balance for me. I feel like I'm educating my complete being and not just a single facet."

When the season wraps up and Dexter has to hang up his racket for the last time as a Colonel, it will mark the close of his competitive athletic career. But he said he will always make time for it in his life.

"I get a thrill out of working out and running and training my body," Dexter said. "I've always thought that when I'm done with everything that I'd like to do a marathon one day. But tennis is a game of a lifetime, and I think I'll play that for the rest of my life."

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