Follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.
Like about half the sports in high school, tennis is a team sport made up of individual competitions. Athletes compete one-on-one (or two-on-two in doubles), and the individual results add up to the team score.
Coaches can preach team dynamics, but it comes down to individual performances where no teammates can help.
That's kind of the dilemma Bishop Dwenger boys tennis coach Tim Koehl is facing this week. Sectionals start next week, and Koehl has to determine the best lineup for his Summit Athletic Conference champions to use.
The Saints, 11-1 after a 5-0 win over Northrop on Tuesday night, are heavily favored to win the Concordia Sectional, but then they'll likely have to face No. 4-ranked Canterbury during the regional. The Cavaliers beat Bishop Dwenger 5-0 on Sept. 4.
So Koehl has to figure out whether he should play seniors Bertram Najev and Charlie Scott at No. 1 and 2 singles, or have Scott play doubles, or if they should play doubles together.
Together, they could be a contender for a doubles state title. Separately, they likely aren't good enough to help the Saints get past Canterbury, which may have the area's deepest team in more than 10 years. It may come down to which is best for them or best for the team.
"We have to see, OK, first of all, what positions do we need to win sectional?'' Koehl said. "That's our first goal. Then you can't rearrange your lineup at all for regionals, so then you have to think of what is going to be your best lineup for regionals, probably against Canterbury.''
The Saints played Najev, Scott and sophomore Patrick Holly in singles against the Cavaliers and lost 5-0 despite close matches.
Tennis is a team state tournament, but also an individual one. Even if their team gets knocked out, individuals can advance in No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles provided they remain unbeaten in the state tournament.
To be eligible to play in those spots, players must complete in those positions in at least 50 percent of their team's regular-season matches. Including play in invitationals, Najev and Scott are 8-0 together in doubles this season, while Najev is 6-1 at No. 1 singles and Scott is 1-1 at No. 2 singles.
Koehl has switched his lineup around several times depending upon the opponent. Scott and Najev will also play doubles Saturday at the East Noble Invitational.
"Doubles is more fun to me, but I like singles more because of the hard work,'' Najev said. "Singles is more serious, but doubles is more fun if you have a partner you can communicate with.''
But which would he pick for the state tournament?
"I think doubles because after sectionals you have to go right into Canterbury and everybody knows they are a really good team.''
Because of a back injury suffered as a freshman, Scott will always pick doubles over singles. He and Najev have also played doubles together since they were in the sixth grade. They approached Koehl about playing doubles this year because they wanted to enjoy their senior season as much as possible.
"We have the camaraderie that makes it fun to play,'' Scott said. "He brings that consistency and smoothness to the court. We just have different styles and we can utilize those to be strengths in doubles.''
By far the more vocal player, Scott never stands still even after points are over, while Najev is more sedate and is extremely gifted physically. They just fit exceptionally well as a doubles team.
"Either way, there are going to be people who say, 'Why did he do that?' but that's why I get paid the huge bucks,'' Koehl says with a smile.
He has a week to decide.