(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
PEAK PERFORMANCE: Stuart Country Day senior tennis star Kathryn Kitts prepares to blast a forehand in action earlier in her stellar career. Last week, Kitts made it to the finals at first singles of the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) for the first time in her career. Although Kitts fell to Jackie Wong of WW/P-N in the title match, her overall play helped Stuart to a tie for second with Notre Dame in the MCT team standings. It was the highest finish ever for Stuart in the event which included 17 schools this year.end
Kitts Gives Her All in MCT Singles Final As Stuart Tennis Finishes in Tie for 2nd
By Bill Alden
After four years of trying, Stuart Country Day tennis star Kathryn Kitts finally made it the title match at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) last week.
Having cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 win over Trenton's Jaymee Jones in the semis, Kitts was determined to give top-seeded Jackie Wong of WW/P-N all she could handle in the title match.
Kitts dug herself a hole as she dropped the first set 6-4, and then fell behind 5-3 in the second set in the match last Wednesday.
On the brink of defeat, Kitts summoned up her considerable intensity as yelled out instructions to herself and started firing off some brilliant shots.
The willowy Kitts fought off three match points before finally succumbing 6-4, 7-5. After the match, Kitts sat on the court for 10 minutes quietly staring into space.
In reflecting on the match, Kitts said her second-set rally was sparked the support she felt from friends and family in the stands at Mercer County Park.
"I heard everyone screaming for me," recalled Kitts. "I was think that was my Stuart crew; I have to do it for them. From then on every point was do or die. I have to do this or die trying."
Kitts thought her comeback was going to force Wong into a third set. "I thought I had it," said Kitts. "Our matches are always like that except that it’s usually three sets. I was down three match points and I fought all of them off. I wasn’t able to pull it off. Jackie played a great match."
Still, Kitts, who took third in first singles at the 2004 MCT, was happy to have gotten a crack at the title.
"Getting to the finals was great but I really wanted to win,” added Kitts. "I’m glad I got to the finals; that was one round past last year so that’s improvement."
Kitts was thrilled with how Stuart improved collectively as the Tartans tied for second with Notre Dame in the team standings of the 17-school event.
"I couldn’t be happier," said Kitts. "I’m so proud; that’s the best we’ve ever done. Everyone did great; there was real team commitment."
Stuart head coach Dede Webster knows that having Kitts at first singles paved the way for her team’s unprecedented finish at the MCT.
"We have a very good player at the top," asserted Webster. “Kathryn works very, very hard. She is a little more consistent this year. She is able to build a point better. Like Jackie, she can work the ball around and when she gets her opening bang."
Webster is also impressed with how sophomore Kelsey Semrod has built up her game at third singles.
"Kelsey is doing great,” said Webster. "She is a good athlete and she has good technique. She doesn’t have variety yet but to make it to the finals as a sophomore. I feel that she did as well as she could."
The pair of Comfort Clinton and Laura Patterson at first doubles also played up to their potential in taking third at the MCT.
"They had a great run," maintained Webster. "The Hun team was just too strong in the semis. In their third place match, they had a great win. The pace was slower and they had a little leeway."
Webster hopes her team will be too strong for the opposition in the upcoming Prep B tournament as the Tartans go for their second straight state title.
"I would think we would do very well,” said a grinning Webster, whose team has matches at Pennington on October 5, at Rutgers Prep on October 7 and at Purnell on October 11.
"The MCT is harder than the Prep B because there is more variety and more teams. We did far better here than we’ve ever done before. I’m very proud of the team. They are wonderful sports and they give it their all. It’s great out here and seeing such great tennis."
Kitts, for her part, believes Stuart is poised to play some more great tennis this fall.
"We have more talent and more confidence," said Kitts, who also stars at basketball for Stuart but plans to concentrate on tennis at college.
"We were a little younger last year; everyone grew up a little over the summer. I remember last year they really started to put their games together and decided we can do this. We just have to make up our minds to do it."
And with Kitts having grown into one of the top singles players around, Stuart should do some more great things this fall.