Playing No. 1 singles a new role for Danville's McAfee

April 21, 2004|JILL ERWIN

Every time McKenzie McAfee steps on the tennis court, it's a new experience.

The Danville freshman has gone from being one of the team's top doubles threats to its No. 1 singles player. It's a new role for the unassuming McAfee.

Add in the fact that she's stepped into the shoes of four-time regional champion Casie Phillips, who moved to Atlanta after last school year, and McAfee is looking at a whole different set of expectations than what she faced last year.

"It's been a whole lot different without Casie, but I love this team," McAfee said. "Even though we're young, I think we'll have a good future. We'll be positive and do good hopefully."


McAfee is doing just fine so far in her debut season at No. 1. She won her first three matches of the season, and won a 9-7 decision over Boyle County's Jennifer Gander Tuesday at Boyle. Boyle's girls, however, won the match 5-4.

Last year, McAfee played No. 1 doubles the entire year. She did well, but hadn't had any experience playing singles for the Admirals.

That chance came this year with the departure of Phillips. Phillips won a regional doubles championship when she was in fifth grade, then captured the next three singles crowns.

Still playing doubles

McAfee is still playing doubles, teaming with Allison Baeker - the duo lost their first match of the season Tuesday to Boyle's Gander and CeCe Witten - but is also learning how to stand on her own.

"I think it's a lot different," McAfee said. "I'm used to playing with Alli, so now I know I've got to slim it (the court) down."

Danville coach Jay Reynolds said McAfee is playing in a difficult position at No. 1. The team members all played each other to set a playing order, and McAfee came out on top to claim No. 1.

"I went through years where we'd have really good teams but the No. 1 player wouldn't win but one or two singles matches the whole year," Reynolds said. "The team would about go undefeated. That's just a hard spot to play in, but somebody's got to play it. It's by far the toughest position to play."

That hasn't deterred McAfee at all. She said she enjoys both singles and doubles, and each has its unique bonuses and challenges. Doubles play means she gets to play with Baeker, a friend, and a chance to share the court.

But singles gives her an opportunity to play tennis a different way.

"It's just a change from what I've always done," McAfee said. "I've always played doubles, so it's a fun change. But I still love playing doubles with Alli."

She also loves soccer

McAfee also loves her time on the Danville soccer team. Athletics is nothing new for McAfee, whose father, David, was a longtime coach at Danville and a former all-state football player at the school, too.

"I've always liked doing things, like soccer and tennis. I just enjoy being outside. I like being close together as a team and really just bonding and having a good time," she said.

McAfee said she feels like she has to take over the No. 1 spot for Phillips, but not replace her. McAfee said she appreciated how good Phillips was.

"Everybody thinks she's the most improved player we've got right now," Reynolds said. "She is the team leader. If the girls want to get better, they hit with her in practice.

"The sky's the limit for her. She feels good about it. The more she plays, the more confidence she'll get and the further her game will come along."

The same could be said for the Admirals, who are blessed and cursed with a young roster.

"I think we'll probably improve as we go along," McAfee said. "We have players like Rachel Ricker, who's only in sixth grade and she's really good. We still have four more years until we're seniors, and we'll just keep getting better."

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