DUNLAP, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — He thought high school tennis would be different than what he’s used to.

Grant Kroodsma was right.

He’s a freshman, playing on varsity and leading the way for Dunlap. Even though most of the players around him are older.

“It’s difficult to play people bigger than you. You have to remember to play your game. Do your best,” said Kroodsma. “That’s how you get better. Even if you lose, it’s a great experience. Figuring out how to deal with them, figuring out how to play against players bigger than you. It helps prepare you for the future.”

Kroodsma, 15, built a nice resume as a junior player prior to enrolling in high school. He competed in United States Tennis Association tournaments around the Midwest in junior high.

Now he’s won 18 of his 26 matches as Dunlap’s No. 1 player. But says this season is all about learning the ropes.

“I’m learning it’s not easy. It’s not like when I was younger” said Kroodsma. “There’s different spin and pace coming off the ball than in my younger years.”

Perhaps the biggest change for Kroodsma is being apart of a team. He played as an individual in his USTA events and was homeschooled until junior high when he went to Concordia Lutheran.

He says he loves having teammates around him.

“”He’s never really had this,” said Dunlap tennis coach Pat Gornik in the middle of a practice filled with players. “We had a great group of guys returning (from last season). They want to see him do well. It’s nice to see how they’ve brought him in and brought him out of his shell.”

Kroodsma leads the league-favorite Eagles into this week’s Mid-Illini Conference Tournament on Thursday.

“It helps you get enthusiastic about playing. It helps you play,” Kroodsma said of his teammates. “They are very loud. It’s almost impossible not to hear them.”