The gradual maturation of Kalyssa Hall didn't happen right at first, but when the Cheyenne Mountain sophomore found herself in a slugfest in the Class 4A state final, she resisted what she knew and found another gear.
She realized that a little finesse would make her game of power all that much better.
"In that last match, my opponent (Alex Weil of St. Mary's Academy) was hitting it hard, and I felt like I could have hit with her and beaten her," Hall said. "I was very nervous and wasn't getting my returns very deep, so I slowed it down, and she missed it when I changed up the pace. I did mature a lot from last year. I started to think how I could win instead of just playing the game hoping I would win."
In the process, that adjustment helped Hall repeat as 4A state champion and roll to an undefeated record in the process at No. 1 singles.
Hall is halfway to Cheyenne Mountain history; she's hoping to equal the mark of Becky Varnum, who was the last girls' singles player at the school to win state titles in all four seasons when she won four straight crowns from 1995-98.
"I'm halfway there," Hall said. "I was pushing hard to have a record without a loss this year, and my main goal is to win all four years. I was also a team captain, and I wanted to be a good role model, too."
Hall's undefeated record was put to the test May 10 at Pueblo City Park. While she took the first set against Weil 6-3, the tables turned slightly in the second set, where each player won six games as the stanza went to a tiebreaker.
That's when Hall found her killer instinct, by playing more defensively, instead of relentlessly slugging it out from the baseline.
"That's not something she was willing to do a year ago," longtime Indians coach Dave Adams said. "She learned to play a different style if she needed to. Usually, she'd pound and pound, but she ran into someone who could match that."
This summer, Hall plans on attending a camp at Brown (R.I.) University, then head to a Florida tennis academy, where eight-hour days on the court are the norm.
And when she returns for her junior season, she hopes to have refined a part of her game that'll make her even tougher to beat.
"I'm focused on completely changing my net game," Hall said. "I've added that because I want to be a better overall player."
Adams can hardly wait to see the results.
"Some people would get complacent after winning two state titles," Adams said. "Kalyssa isn't one of those people. She's such a good competitor. She expects so much of herself. But as strong as she is, I see a lot of room for growth, especially with her being comfortable at the net."