ASU singles player all about team

Oct. 20, 2008

By Devin SmithEast Valley Tribune

As a two-sport high school star growing up in North Bend, Ore., Kelcy McKenna relished the team atmosphere of volleyball, in which she was a two-time 3A state player of the year.

But at 5-foot-9, McKenna knew her skills were more suited to the individual sport of tennis at the collegiate level.

Not to worry. The 19-year-old sophomore has found a way to blend the camaraderie of team sports into her tennis game at Arizona State, and the results speak for themselves.

After opening the season with a loss, McKenna has won 12 straight singles matches and won back-to-back tournaments at the Cal Nike Invitational in Berkley, Calif., and the ITA All-American Championships in Los Angeles.

She also won the doubles title at the Cal Invitational with Micaela Hein, whom she credits for much of her success.

'She's a lot of fun to play with and I think she helps me have some intensity,' McKenna said of Hein. 'So I like to use that to transfer over to singles.'

McKenna, in fact, feeds off all her teammates, and vice versa. During dual meets, McKenna is usually one of the first players back out of the locker room after her singles match, cheering on her teammates. There may be no one to make a perfect pass to like on the volleyball court, but there's a sense of teamwork nonetheless.

'I really look up to my teammates because they all have their own individual game style and their own personality on the court, and I think I can take something from each one of them,' McKenna said.

'I have a really great support system. ... Our team is really close and we have really good communication with our coaches, so it's an open-door policy and they do the best to accommodate us and to win.'

Still, it's McKenna out there on the court by herself when it comes time to throw the ball up.

She defeated the three other seeded players, including No. 1 Aurelija Miseviciute of Arkansas, to win the All-American Championships.

At the Cal Invitational, McKenna dropped the first set in both the semifinals and finals, only to rally in the final two sets to win the singles championship.

'So far she's done really well,' said Sheila McInerney, ASU's coach for the past 24 years. 'Winning the All-American, probably outside of the NCAA, is the most prestigious singles tournament during the year.'

McKenna said the All-American 'was just a good opportunity for me to see what the top players play like.'

McKenna, who was 33-10 in singles as a freshman, is actually the No. 2 player at ASU behind junior Nadia Abdala, who has been out with mononucleosis. Abdala will provide even more competition -- and camaraderie -- when she returns.

'I just want to keep improving and hopefully just continue to progress in my game,' McKenna said. 'Get stronger, and faster and more precise on the tennis court.'

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