Despite being undefeated and helping Desert Vista to the All-City girls tennis title, Melissa Kahn feels she has something to prove.
She missed out on the individual state tournament last season due to an illness and the sophomore was unable to test herself on the state’s highest stage.
Kahn has stopped playing at the national level so the state tournament is the ultimate test.
“I felt like I let everyone down,” Kahn said. “It was tough to miss it, but this year I am feeling good and I can’t wait to see what I can do.”
The individual state meet starts on April 19 and Kahn should be seeded higher than last year’s seventh spot.
“She is playing really well,” Thunder coach Angela Singer said. “She was so disappointed last year because she really had a chance to do something. She will make the most of that chance this year.”
The Thunder is feeling pretty confident after winning the Tempe City meet for the time, wrestling it away from usual champion Corona del Sol with some help from Mountain Pointe.
Kahn dominated her No. 1 singles matches giving up a total of just two games the whole weekend, while Yolena Carlon, a sophomore, took both No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles with Kahn. Junior Tori Kammerzell won all her matches at No. 3 singles to stay undefeated on the season.
The Thunder was represented in seven of the nine finals. The rest of the team includes No. 4 Courtney Floegel, a senior, No. 5 Kyrstal Corrette, a junior, and No. 6 Kirsten Sperry, who has focused more on tennis than volleyball recently.
“We are young with only one senior so hopefully we can win a few more of those trophies,” Singer said. “We played really well and we have a lot of freshmen that are going to be good players who could play at other schools, but right now we have some good players in front of them.”
The other two finals were won by Mountain Pointe’s Carla Poplawsky and Atatasia Pushkarenko at the No. 4 and No. 5 singles spot. Corona won the boys event with Desert Vista winning at No. 2 singles behind Yusef Mohammed and No. 1 doubles with Yusef and his brother Saleem Mohammed, while the Pride’s Jacob Matanky won at No. 4 singles.
Carlon’s development has been fast considering she has gone from junior varsity No. 2 as a freshman to the varsity No. 2 in one year. She gave up track to concentrate solely on tennis and her game has really taken off with help from her personal coach, Ed Wolin, who used to be the Thunder boys coach.
“I was thinking about how far I’ve come from last year (during the all-city meet),” she said. “I didn’t want to do something halfway (splitting time between track and tennis) so I dedicated myself to tennis and it is paying off.”
The final piece to the championship level of play has been Kammerzell, who proved she could be a No. 1 on most other teams when she filled in for Kahn at the state tournament last year and got to the third round before being eliminated.
“I am challenged to get better every day because of (Kahn) and Yo,” she said. “I guess I could be a higher player on other teams, but I just want to help our team as much as I can.”
The Thunder, who lost its first two matches of the season but have won six of its last eight, will get the chance in the team state tournament when it gets under way on April 24.
“It will be interesting because we are going to be like a 12 or 13 seed and we are a much better team than that,” said Singer, who added the team beat Salpointe for the first time. “As long as we don’t face (top-seeded) Xavier early than we could do something special.”
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