Years of playing singles tournaments couldn't prepare Kalyssa Hall for the additional pressure of representing a team. By the time the Cheyenne Mountain freshman completed her first season, she managed to make history on two fronts.
When the 15-year-old knocked off Denver South senior Meaghan Monaghan in the 4A singles final May 11 at Pueblo City Park, Hall became Cheyenne Mountain's first No. 1 singles player to snag a state title in six years. By going 16-1 during the season, she also led a dominant team effort as each Indians representative reached the state championship for the first time since 1991.
"I was so excited to play on a team, but I was a little nervous, too," said Hall, The Gazette's Girls' Tennis Peak Performer of the Year. "I was nervous going into tryouts because I was hoping to play No. 1 singles. Then I was nervous going into state because I wasn't sure how I was going to deal with the team pressure, not letting anyone down if I lost. It was nerve wracking, but I think I adjusted pretty well."
Hall lost only to 5A No. 1 state singles champion Rebecca Weissman of Loveland in a tightly fought 6-4, 6-4 decision April 19. After that, Hall found another gear, not dropping another set the rest of the season. When her name was called as the No. 1 singles champion, it marked the first time since Casey Wetzig in 2007 that Cheyenne Mountain's top singles player accomplished that feat.
"Some kids at that level skip high school tennis, so we were very pleased that she made the decision to be part of a team," Indians coach Dave Adams said. "Personally, I think it's an important part of the growth of a player to be a teammate. She's one of the most competitive players I've ever seen, very driven and focused. Plus, she did a great job as far as being part of the team."
Picking up a tennis racket for the first time at age 5, Hall soon split her allegiances between soccer, volleyball and ski racing.
By middle school, Hall made the decision to drop skiing, ending hectic days that started on the slopes in Breckenridge and ended on a tennis court three hours away in Denver.
The 5-foot-11 Hall typically ground-stroked opponents into submission, blasting away from the baseline. That is, if her foes were able to return her blazing first serve to start a rally.
But there's always room to improve, and Adams is looking forward to seeing Hall with a year of experience under her belt next spring.
"It's amazing to see that she has a lot of potential that she hasn't developed yet," Adams said. "She is very good from the baseline, but as she develops, she'll become more adept handling midcourt balls, volleys and overheads. She's not going to rest on her laurels, and she has the work ethic to reach her goals. She loves to be on the court, and I haven't seen that in many kids."
Her love of the court will be put to the test later this summer when she returns to the renowned Rick Macci Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla.
"It's tennis, 6-8 hours a day for six weeks," Hall said. "It'll be hard, but it'll be fun, too. Tennis is my life."