ATHLETE OF THE YEAR GIRLS TENNIS: A smash hit | MyWindsorNow.com

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR GIRLS TENNIS: A smash hit

Steve Puterski

JIM RYDBOM/jrydbom@mywindsornow.comShelby Carpenter is Windsor Now's Athlete of the Year for girls tennis.

She may be quiet, but as a junior Windsor’s Shelby Carpenter helped lead the Wizards’ girls tennis team to its best finish in school history. Carpenter, 17, went 7-4 on the year and finished with the No. 3 seed at No. 1 singles in the Class 4A Northern Conference.

The spring season marked Carpenter’s first year at the singles level as she played her freshman and sophomore year at No. 1 doubles with Kate Johnson.

Propelling Carpenter through the season was new head coach Gary Wilson and assistant Paul Katers. Wilson, who will coach the boys team this fall, helped Carpenter elevate her confidence and Katers helped develop her backhand.

“My backhands were the biggest thing,” Carpenter said about her biggest weakness. “They weren’t very strong, and were going into lobs instead of regular backhands.”

Carpenter worked with Katers to straighten out the backhand, which helped Carpenter down the stretch. Carpenter finished the season as the conference’s No. 3 seed.

However, despite a 3-1 record in the conference tournament, Carpenter placed fourth, two spots down from qualifying for the state tournament.

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“I think she can take the third-place slot at least,” Katers said of what’s in store for Carpenter next year. “But I think she’ll do better next year than this year.”

According to Katers, one of Carpenter’s strengths is her attitude. She doesn’t get too high or low and just has a way of grinding out game after game.

She leads by example and also has helped her younger sister, Kelsey, step her game up to the varsity level. Kelsey started the season at No. 2 singles, but then hit her comfort zone when she moved to No. 2 doubles with Johnson.

“She’s really good, and all the girls realize she’s No. 1. It’s that person they strive to beat,” Katers said. “She’s super friendly and she’s not cocky about being the best or anything like that. She’s real humble. Humble’s where she’s at.”

Carpenter’s transition from doubles to singles came easier than she thought. Through Wilson’s practice routine, Carpenter became more and more comfortable out on the court by herself.

Wilson was able to separate the singles players from the doubles pairs, for the most part, and Carpenter’s natural ability took over.

“It wasn’t that bad, actually,” Carpenter said. “We were separated from doubles so we got a lot of practice.”

Carpenter has spent her summer as a part of Wilson’s USTA Youth Tennis program and helped lead her team to a second-place showing despite a court ripping up at the seams.

Though the courts are in the process of being replaced, Carpenter hopes she can get a solid surface to play next year. Dead spots throughout the courts hinder the players’ ability to get quality shots.

“It makes a big difference because all the courts are pretty different,” Carpenter said. “Some are concrete based and some our like ours with the cheap material.”

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