SPRING HILL — Andrew Lund was at home that July day when he got the call from a teammate.
Simon Toftegaard, a rising star on Nature Coast Technical High School's tennis team and Lund's friend since the seventh grade, had been hit by a car and killed while bicycling in Denmark during a family vacation.
"It just made me really think about how easy it is to lose someone," Lund recalled last week. He and Toftegaard, a jovial, blond teen who would have played as the top seed, were headed into their junior year.
Toftegaard's teammates vowed to make it to the state championship in his honor. It took two years, but they made it, wearing their friend's number 17 on their sleeve.
"We became 10 times closer because of that experience," Lund said. "Now we know we can count on each other."
About the same time, Lund started working toward a personal goal: get accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy. Already planning to go for a service academy and thinking about the Navy, he'd visited the academy's historic campus in Annapolis, Md., during a tennis camp that summer. That solidified it, he said.
This month, he'll trade his civilian clothes for dress whites and sacrifice his brown hair and a traditional college experience for school and country. He knows it will be difficult, a regimented existence for eight years — four of free schooling in exchange for four of mandatory service — that might make many college-bound students shudder.
But Lund, the son of a Navy veteran who now works for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, knows about service and discipline. He's thinking about making a career out of the military.
"It just feels right," he said.
Born and raised in Spring Hill, Lund joined the Cub Scouts in the first grade. The oldest of two siblings, he would go on become an Eagle Scout, sweating as he laid brick pavers and built benches and planter boxes at Notre Dame Catholic School for his Eagle Scout service project.
He started playing tennis in middle school, drawn to the individual challenge of singles play, the combined effort of doubles, and the camaraderie of the team.
He played on a U.S. Tennis Association junior team, too. That team earned a spot in the quarterfinals slated for the end of the month, but Lund will be in Annapolis, Md., by then and won't get to play.
Zoned for Springstead High, Lund chose Nature Coast for its health science program. He completed the coursework and found the material interesting, but realized he didn't want to be a doctor.
Lund served on the Nature Coast academic team and excelled in the classroom, achieving a rank of 19th out of 322 graduating seniors.
But it was his demeanor that struck people: quiet, humble, and helpful.
Kandyce Callaghan is a teacher in the health science program. Lund was in Callaghan's class for the first three years, and she recalled the tenderness he showed after she lost three close family members in a matter of months.
"He was the kid who said, 'Can I do anything for you? Are you okay?' " Callaghan said. "He was like that with the other students, too. You know, like a Boy Scout."
As a freshman and sophomore, Lund hardly talked in practice, recalls tennis coach Tom Brown. That changed after Toftegaard's death, he said.
"That seemed to really pull him out of his shell and he became a real leader for our team at that point," Brown said.
"He was a fun guy to be around, always trying to make the best out of a situation," Lund said of Toftegaard, "so we tried to keep up that spirit."
After a growth spurt in high school, Lund used his lanky, 6-foot-1-inch frame to create a defensive wall that wore down opponents. He is a two-time district and regional champion, logging 77 total victories in singles and doubles in high school — just five wins shy of the all-time record, Brown said.
To earn a walk-on spot at the Naval Academy, an NCAA Division I school, Lund will have to play in a tournament, then beat the lowest-seeded player on the team.
Lund is already in exclusive company. The acceptance rate at the Naval Academy was 10 percent in 2009, one of the lowest in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.
"He was determined once he made up his mind that's what he was fighting for," said his father, Kenneth Lund, who served on a Navy submarine before joining the Hernando Sheriff's Office more than two decades ago.
Then-U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite nominated Lund for a post at the Naval Academy. He passed a grueling, timed fitness test.
He has remained humble, mother Karen said.
"If he had his way, he would just go off to the academy and no one would know," she said.
Tyler Schwefringhaus, a teammate and close friend, was surprised when Lund said he was gunning for the Naval Academy. Schwefringhaus had hoped the two would wind up together at the University of Florida.
"I still tell him he's not going to have a life," Schwefringhaus said, chuckling. "But it's good for him because he's very strict and focused, so he'll do fine."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or email@example.com.