SPENCERVILLE – It might appear an odd way for a high school girl to decorate her bedroom door, but to Kaylee Davis it makes perfect sense.
Lining the Spencerville junior tennis standout’s doorway are Post-it notes, each with a number written on it. The number represents a day, and each morning when she peels a yellow note off the door, it tells her how many days remain until the OHSAA tennis tournaments begin.
Basically, Davis has created her own personal tennis advent calendar in which Christmas morning is Oct. 2 when the Division II sectionals begin at the UNOH Tennis Courts.
“(Qualifying for) state is definitely the goal,” Davis said. “That was my goal last year and I was very close. I got a taste of it. I went down and watched it and just to know I had a shot to be there, it hurt.”
While most tennis girls might also count down the days till sectionals, it has added significance for Davis and her coach/father Jeff Davis because Kaylee is the lone Bearcats’ tennis player. Because she isn’t on a full team, once the season starts she can’t play in any tournaments until the OHSAA tournament rolls around.
She can practice, but her offseason load of open tournaments is off limits by OHSAA rules. Though they’ve tried to enter in tournaments as an individual, they’ve yet to be successful. Meaning, her regular season is practice, practice, practice.
“I struggled with it last year, “ she said, “but now I look at it as an opportunity to get a lot better practice time in. I’m looking forward to sectionals, but I’m realizing I have a lot of work to do. “
When she got on the court at last year’s sectionals, she ran the table going 4-0 and claiming the singles championship. She then moved on to districts and won her first match 6-4, 6-0 before losing a heartbreaker to Ottawa Hills’ Lilli Boice 6-4, 6-4 — a match Davis led 3-0 in both sets before dropping each.
“Ugh, let’s not even talk about that,” Davis said. “At sectionals I didn’t struggle too much with the mental game, but at districts it was definitely a challenge for me. I did not have the mental toughness.”
To her credit, she’s recognized her Achilles’ heal and took dead-aim at conquering it, according to Jeff.
“Losing at districts really motivated Kaylee,” Jeff said. “It was a mental breakdown on her part, but she’s worked through it in the offseason. It really made her want this even more than if she had been given an automatic pass into state. This year she’ll be even better going into sectionals.”
Kaylee certainly hasn’t taken her offseason lightly. Four or five times a week she gets on the Westwood tennis courts and hits with either her dad, club pro Jeff Brown, or other local high school and college tennis players such as Andrea Arango, Lauren Rovner and Alex Swick. She also played in a slew of USTA tournaments around a 100-mile radius — Dayton, Toledo, Columbus, Fort Wayne, Lima, etc.
This summer, she qualified again for the USTA Midwest Closed tournament in Indianapolis. Though she was 16 at the time, she competed in the 18-year-old age division against state qualifiers and nationally ranked players. Though she lost both of her matches, she gained plenty of experience.
“It’s the best players in a five-state region and the competition is absolutely unbelievable,” she said. “It’s a great experience, especially for me not getting matches during the season.”
Davis played in about one tournament per month, including winning the Lima City doubles tournament with Arango this summer. Those tournaments along with the regular practices with college coaches, Brown and her dad have resulted in a much better player.
“Kaylee has a much more well-rounded tennis game than she did last year,” Jeff Davis said. “She’s able to come to the net, she’s not forcing shots… she’s planning out her points much better.
“It’s happened through all the practices and the USTA tournaments. Getting out on the court and playing really helps her confidence.”
Jeff Davis, who played for Bath in the 1980s and reached the regional tournaments, started Kaylee in tennis at about the age of 7. Her interest continued into the eighth grade when Jeff approached Spencerville’s athletics department, which had no tennis team, about letting her play with him as coach. Once that was approved, she was off and running.
Her freshman sectional tournament ended in the second round, and again, much of it had to do with the same type of massive nervousness she fought in last year’s district tournament.
Now, with each tournament and practice, those butterflies seem to be getting swatted away.
“I’ve worked on the mental game a lot,” Kaylee said. “It’s a maturity thing and this past year I’ve put a lot of work into that. I’ve played a lot of matches and played with a lot of college players and they’ve given me a lot of help I can use. So I feel a lot better going into this year, I’m more mature and I have a better understanding to go forth.”
NOTE: All information was supplied by area coaches. Any teams not appearing did not return preview information to the Lima News.
COACH: Scott Wills
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: Second year, 6-6
2013 RECORD: 6-6 overall.
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Olivia Gonder, Jr.; Alex James, Jr.; Cheyenne Wells, Jr., Mackenzie Wills, Jr.; Hailey Maier, Soph.; Meredith Marshall, Soph.; Libbie Milks, Soph.; Meredith Morgan, Soph.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Tessa Coulson, Sr.; Quinn High, Sr.; Paige Hopson, Soph.; Shelby Higgins, Fr.; Calle Young, Fr.
OVERVIEW: Wills believes his team gained valuable experience in 2013, the program’s inaugural season. According to him, the Bulldogs need to leverage that experience to compete with a more challenging schedule this year. Overall, participation is on the rise and the team is looking forward to a good season.
COACH: Sandra Dackin
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: N/A
2013 RECORD: 5-13 overall, 2-7 WBL
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Jordan Haller, Dana Wieging, Madison Pauff, Madelyn Helmig, Katia Hardman, Grayce Smith.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Hannah Truman, Baylie Brock, Abbie Houston.
OVERVIEW: The Wildcats expect to be much improved this season with a good crew of returning letterwinners. According to Dackin, the girls are excited and eager to get started.
COACH: Mike Hilty
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: First season at Bluffton, eighth overall
2013 RECORD: N/A
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Maggie Fett, Julianne Hotmire, Brielle Hamilton, Sara Bertke.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Deep freshmen class.
OVERVIEW: The Pirates have plenty of depth with a good crop of freshmen talent coming up to mix with a solid group of veterans.
COACH: Jan Morrison
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: 15, N/A
2013 RECORD: 8-6 overall, 7-2 third in WBL
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Maddy Cline, Jr., first singles; Nicole Elston, Jr., first doubles.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Ally Harris, Soph., second singles; Breanna Jenkins, Soph., third singles; Cami Mohler, Soph., first doubles; Kayleah Fischer, Jr., second doubles, Miranda Rable, Soph., second doubles; Allison Lehman, Fr.; Lexi Noll, Fr.
OVERVIEW: The Bulldogs have no seniors but plenty of depth with 22 players. Although they are young, the team is working hard and improving quickly as experience comes.
COACH: Amy McDonald
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: Fifth, 16-66
2013 RECORD: 7-10 overall, 4-5 WBL
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Kristine Shannon, Sr., first singles; Laura Castillo, Sr., second singles; Raquel Gomez, Jr., third singles; Courtney Polce, Sr., first doubles; Danielle Vance, Sr., first doubles; Katie Hancock, Sr., second doubles; Sammy Foss, Sr., second doubles.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Alyssa Cruz, Soph., second doubles; Kristen Bell, Soph., second doubles; Natasha Reeves, Soph., third singles.
OVERVIEW: According to McDonald, this is the strongest Defiance team in many years. Every varsity player has been on the team since they were freshmen and many have solid experience.
COACH: Quinn Whittaker
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: Five years, 36-28
2013 RECORD: 8-8 overall, 5-4 WBL
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Ashley Fay, Sr., doubles; Summer Slusher, Sr., doubles; Jenna Mekolites, Sr., doubles; Meredith Little, Jr., singles; Jacey Highie, Jr., singles.
KEY NEWCOMERS: McKenna Griffith, Jr.
OVERVIEW: Whittaker is looking forward to a strong and successful season from the Bulldogs.
LIMA CENTRAL CATHOLIC
COACH: Kevin Bruin
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: Eight years, 176-75
2013 RECORD: 15-4 overall
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Kacey Bradshaw, Sr.; Emily Janowski, Sr.; Sophia Venturella, Sr.; Meredith Bruns, Sr.; Natalie Patricio/Agosto, Sr.; Olivia Stanley, Sr.; Samantha Stallkamp, Sr.; Shelby Young, Jr.; Elizabeth Hanna, Jr.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Rylee Targon, Fr., doubles.
OVERVIEW: Team chemistry is a strength for the Thunderbirds, who are looking to work on serving and being consistent. Bruin believes the team should be solid with seven seniors leading the way.
COACH: Amy Reed
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: First season as head coach
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: N/A
KEY NEWCOMERS: Janel Roach, Jr.; Yessenia Alvarez, Fr.
OVERVIEW: According to Reed, the Spartans are working very hard and are looking to be competitive this season.
COACHES: Jill Welch and Brian Barhorst
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: Second, N/A
2013 RECORD: 3-10 overall, ninth in WBL
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Tiffany Kahle, Jr.; Alexa Haselman, Soph.; Erin Hageman, Soph.; Mary Beth Potthoff, Sr.; Lauren Schneeg, Jr.; Kristen Ellerbrock, soph.
KEY NEWCOMERS: N/A
OVERVIEW: The Titans return six players who gained plenty of varsity experience in 2013, a season in which O-G had just one veteran player. That experience should result in a much better performance this year as the Titans try to climb back up the WBL ladder.
COACH: Jessica Stambaugh
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: Second, 13-3
2013 RECORD: 13-3 overall, 8-1 second in WBL
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Anita Kottapalli, Sr.; Monica Glick, Sr.; Jasmine Binod, Sr.; Alexis Wei, Sr.; Nkiru Anigbogu, Jr.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Margaret Arabpour, Sr.; Morgan Neff, Sr.; Sydney Brookshire, Jr.; Rashika Avvari, Soph.; Meghana Chanamolu, Soph.
OVERVIEW: According to Stambaugh, the team is hardworking and determined and has a good understanding of the strokes. She is looking for her Indians to improve on consistency throughout each match.
COACH: Jeff Davis
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: N/A
2013 RECORD: N/A
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Kaylee Davis, Jr., singles.
KEY NEWCOMERS: N/A
OVERVIEW: Kaylee Davis is the lone Bearcats’ player, meaning she will not be able to play high school matches until the OHSAA tournament begins. However, once it does she will be dangerous as the defending sectional champion with her eyes set on making state this year. Her overall game – mentally and physically – has improved dramatically making her even tougher in 2014.
COACH: Brice Brenneman
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: 22 years, 331-218
2013 RECORD: 3-13 overall, 1-8 WBL
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Anna Ernst, Sr., first singles; Hanna Feluer, Soph., third singles; Jenna Peary, Jr., second doubles; Bailey Rust, Soph., second doubles; Avarie Ellis, Jr., first doubles; Jennifer Lauth, Jr., first doubles.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Rachel Moeller, Jr., doubles; Alyssa Finley, Jr., doubles.
OVERVIEW: The Roughriders have shown marked improvement from a year ago but are still working on keeping the ball in play consistently. Brenneman is optimistic for the season because of his team’s experience.
COACH: Chuck Rollins
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: 12, N/A
2013 RECORD: 8-8 overall, fifth in WBL
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Ali Moreland, Jr., first singles; Sydney Felger, Sr., first doubles; Hannah Stemen, Sr., first doubles; Kali Alger, Jr., doubles; Jess Alger, Jr., doubles.
OVERVIEW: Moreland returns after receiving All-District honors a year ago and should be one of the top players at first singles in the WBL. She gives the team tremendous leadership after the Cougars graduated two very strong singles players in Sydney Dull and Claire Butler. Rollins is pleased with his underclassmen and is looking to improve the team’s doubles performance this year.
COACH: Mike Klock
YEARS, RECORD AT SCHOOL: 10, N/A
2013 RECORD: 17-0 overall, 9-0 WBL Champs
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Kaitlin Snider, Allie Zofkie, Kiersten Wellons, Carly Buzzard, Chelsea Myers, Mackenzie Kaverman, Madison Watt.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Kate Henderson, Cassidy Hughes, Leanne Jose
OVERVIEW: The Redskins return their main core and should be a strong competitor once again for the WBL crown.