Stronger, quicker and playing with more confidence than ever before, Triad High School senior Kylie McCarthy lost just one tennis match during the regular season as she rolled to the Mississippi Valley Conference championship.
And a happier, more mature McCarthy enjoyed every step along the way. McCarthy will begin the next stage of her life in late summer 2017 as a member of the women’s tennis program at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., knowing that she had accomplished about as much as she could while wearing the red and white of Triad High School.
Her achievements earned her the honor of being the Belleville News-Democrat Class A Singles Player of the Year.
“I feel like from a physical standpoint, I was stronger this year and that my overall game continued to improve,” McCarthy said. “But I really think that I matured as a player this season. I took time to take it all in. I relaxed, took my time in my matches, took time to discover what the weaknesses were and how to play against my opponents. Before, I would try to rush through my opponents and I would get all frustrated.”
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Instead it was McCarthy’s opponents who ended up frustrated as the athletic Knights senior wrapped up her high school career, finishing her senior season with a mark of 33-3, a Triad Sectional victory and a ninth-place finish in the first Class A State Tennis Tournament.
The trip to the state finals was the fourth straight for McCarthy, who played singles in her freshman, junior and senior seasons. During her sophomore year, McCarthy joined older sister Alexis McCarthy to play in doubles.
“Playing doubles with my sister and doing so well at the state tournament was a great experience and one I will always remember,” McCarthy said. “This season, with the year I had, getting to the state tournament, I was probably more prepared than I had ever been before. I was 5-8 seed, and I felt that was about where I thought I should have been.
“It was tough to lose in the third round in the main draw because it was a match I had a chance to win. But I walked off the court knowing that I had given everything I had. We were out there on that court for a long time. I played a good match.”
As a doubles combination, the McCarthy sisters finished 4-2 in the 2014 state finals. This season, Kylie McCarthy — winning two matches each in both the winners and consolation brackets — went 4-2 in the singles draw.
Still, McCarthy has to wonder of what might have been. After breezing to a straight set wins in which she dropped just two games in four sets, McCarthy lost a heartbreaking 2-6, 7-6, 7-5 decision to Caroline Arnold of (Lisle) Benet Academy in her round match. That win proved to be crucial for Benet, which went on to win the state title by a single point over Joliet Catholic Academy.
“It was a great tennis match that went back and forth. Kylie played a great match, but after the first set, the girl she was playing just seemed to raise her game to another level,” Triad coach Devan Faulkenberg said. “But to Kylie’s credit she was able to come back and win two more matches in the back draw (consolation bracket). That shows the type of character she has and the type of competitor she is.
“Kylie had a tremendous season and a great high school career. I think (Lindenwood) is getting a great player but even a better young person.”
At Lindenwood University, McCarthy will be reunited with her sister Alexis, who will begin her junior season in 2017.
Kylie McCarthy said she looked at other schools including the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. But the lure of being reunited with her sister and playing for an up-and-coming program close to home made Lindenwood the school for her.
McCarthy plans to major in exercise science.