Girls Tennis Player of the Year
by Aaron Garcia
Although she’s just a junior, Cuthbertson’s Kalli Karas has built quite a reputation across the state as a high school tennis player. That tends to happen when you win a state title in each of your first two years of varsity competition, as Karas did when she teamed with her elder sister, McKenna, to win the Class 2A doubles championships in 2009 and 2010.
This season, however, Karas established herself as one of the strongest singles players in the state.
With McKenna graduated and studying at the University of North Carolina, Karas grabbed the reins as the Cavs’ leader and raised her game, recording an 11-0 regular-season mark in singles play while only surrendering two games to her opponents. Karas also joined teammate Caroline Hensley to tally a 9-0 record in doubles competition.
More impressive, Karas kept her unblemished mark intact throughout the postseason as she swept both the Class 2A state and Midwestern Regional championships, making her more than worthy of the title of Union County Weekly’s 2011 Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
Karas remembers her doubles titles fondly but said that her performance this season proved she could stand on her own among the state’s elite. But did she have something to prove by entering the state tournament as a singles player, rather than trying to defend her doubles title?
“A little bit, I don’t know. That’s a hard question,” Karas said. “I think by the second year, some people (thought), ‘Oh, it’s really easy to win the state title – you’ve already won it two years.’ Then they see it’s doubles, and they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s doubles. You had someone with you.’
“Winning it by myself kind of proves that I can do this by myself and I don’t need a ton of help,” she continued. “You’ve got to put in the effort and you can’t depend on one person. You have to stay really focused.”
But aside from good memories, Karas’ first two runs through the state tournament prepared her for the singles championship stage, which played a large role in her victorious run this season.
“The first year I played (in the state tournament), I was really nervous,” she recalled. “The crowd kind of got to me because I was like, ‘Oh, all these people are watching my mistakes.’
“But by the third title, I was basically like, ‘Let’s just win this, don’t focus on (the crowd),’” she said. “(I just asked myself), ‘How bad do you want it?’”