Stallings Settles into No. 1 Singles Slot for Millis Net Team

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Kaityln Stallings is indeed using her time on a tennis court efficiently, and if she and her teammates can generate some success, then girls tennis at Millis High could be in for a change.
Issue Date: 
May, 2018
Article Body: 

Girls tennis at Millis High hasn’t enjoyed a plethora of success like the football team or the girls soccer and basketball squads, but trends often change. And, if the Mohawks hope to improve on last year’s 4-15 record, then Kaitlyn Stallings no doubt will be counted on to invigorate the program.
The 5-foot-7 junior joined the varsity last year as a sophomore, and instead of playing doubles matches like she did at the jayvee level her freshman season, she started in singles matches and eventually settled into the role as the Mohawks’ No. 1 singles player.
Coach Tom Ingraham is bullish on Stallings’ ability. He likes what he calls her “unique style,’’ that includes an aggressive approach at the net, a strong serve and an effective forehand.
“When she was on the jayvees, I envisioned Kaitlyn as a doubles player,’’ Ingraham said. “But, last year she started in singles and worked her way to No. 1. She’s willing to take chances and be a disruption for an opponent. She takes lessons and that’s helped elevate her game. An efficient volleyer, she’s also got a great demeanor for the sport because she’s able to stay on an even keel.’’
The 17-year-old Stallings won four matches last year and two of them were rather significant in her development. She was inserted into the No. 1 singles slot in her first varsity match and defeated Milton’s top player in two sets. And, against Medway, she showed spunk in rallying for a three-set win against the Mustangs’ top player.
“I filled in at No. 1 singles against Milton because of illness and was able to overcome being nervous,’’ Stallings recalled. “I had to rely on the skills I learned from my lessons. That victory gave me confidence and showed I could compete with an older player. The win at Medway stands out because of the way I rallied.’’
So far this season, Stallings is 1-1 and Millis has a 0-2 record.
Stallings, who started playing tennis at 11, has a variety of strengths. Besides a strong serve and a dependable cross-court backhand, she’s effective on her placements and her approach shots.
“I depend on trying to understand the different types of players I face, and I also work on being consistent and understanding situational tennis,’’ she said. “Where I need to improve is volleying at the net and getting more speed on forehand and backhand shots.’’
Stallings’ team goal for the season is for Millis to reach .500 and qualify for the tourney. Personally, she’ll be striving to achieve a winning record. “Our team has a lot of seniors. We’re experienced and have players with talent,’’ she said. “We have a chance to turn things around.’’
Stallings points to a trio of teammates she believes will play key roles this season — captain Allie Smith, Meg Hourigan and Lily Denman. “Allie is a smart, consistent player,’’ Stallings noted. “Meg is a terrific competitor whose strokes are strong, and Lily is a good placement hitter whose serve is aggressive.’’
Also a fan of her coach, Stallings labels Ingraham “a calm presence.’’ She admires her coach’s ability “to motivate, encourage and to focus on basics.’’
Stallings, who also is an outside hitter on the varsity volleyball team, isn’t intimidated when she’s continually matched against No. 1 singles players from rival teams. Her approach is to stay positive. “Any pressure that mounts comes from myself,’’ she said. “If I get mad or down in a match, my game usually goes downhill. “So, I focus on giving my best effort and staying positive.’’
An honor student, Stallings hopes to continue her tennis career in college. She’s not sure what school she’ll attend, but she’s leaning on a southern college and a science major.
Relying on a competitive philosophy of working hard to win, Stallings also is a firm believer of striving to reach her potential. “Having fun and enjoying athletics is important, but fun usually occurs through winning,’’ she emphasized. “Winning is important.’’
Very aware that athletics provide a venue for learning life lessons, Stallings lists teamwork, time management and leadership as key lessons that can be learned. “I try to be a good teammate,’’ she noted. “And, even if you’re not a captain, sports can teach you to be a leader. Sports also teach you how to balance academics and use your time efficiently.’’