The solution? A trip to the Sunshine State.
Haviland honed her game at the Nick Saviano High Performance Tennis Academy in Sunrise, Fla., last fall. She has since returned to the Dayton suburb to anchor the No. 1 singles spot for the Jills. A young Oakwood team is currently ranked No. 1 in the Miami Valley Tennis Coaches Association.
“If we had Kelsey last year I think we would have breezed through state,” said Oakwood coach Kim Gilbert, who returns three players with varsity experience. “We’re glad to have her back this year.”
Her opponents can’t say the same. Haviland is one of the favorites to win the D-II state title with her 105 mph serve and stoic approach. Missed shots that once flustered Haviland are now quickly forgotten. Her physical conditioning is better than ever. Spending six months surrounded by players working toward pro careers can do that.
“A state title compared to the girls down there training for the U.S. Open is nothing,” Haviland said of the standout talent she played against daily.
Haviland certainly wouldn’t turn down another state title, though. The goal of every Ohio prep tennis player is to reach the Stickney Tennis Center on the campus of Ohio State University. Haviland, however, has plans for an extended stay. She’ll play for the Buckeyes next season after giving a verbal commitment in January. She’s already confident she can compete. In her first Intercollegiate Tennis Association tournament this summer, Haviland beat Christina Keesey — Ohio State’s No. 2 singles player — 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. She lost to Purdue’s Neela Vaez in the semifinals, 7-6, 6-4. She was one of five high schoolers to compete and the only one to reach the semis.
Last fall at a local tournament in Florida, Haviland took a player from Miami University, a top-10 program, to three sets.
“There’s no one on our team who can hit with her,” Gilbert said. “As good of a tennis player as she is, she is not a bragger by any means. She could be very cocky but she’s the exact opposite.”
Haviland learned that early in life, but had it strictly reinforced at the academy. Her daily routine consisted of hitting the courts at 7:45 a.m., warm-ups and hitting from 8:15-10 a.m., study break from 10-1 p.m., hitting from 1-3 p.m., capped by 90 minutes of physical training. Proper attitude never took time off.
“It’s something they drilled into me in Florida. The guy I trained with always talked about being a class act,” she said. “If you yelled or did something he pulled you off the court and you were done for the day.”
So, how many times did Haviland get pulled during her six-month stay?
“Once,” Haviland said. “I missed an easy shot and hit the top of my racquet on the ground and tried to bounce it back into my hand. I missed (the handle) and it looked like I threw it. I tried to explain but he wasn’t listening to it.”
Likewise, Haviland isn’t interested in hearing she’s the favorite to win state. With a strong Cincinnati field to navigate through and top returning contenders across Ohio, Haviland gladly gives that No. 1 ranking to anyone who wants it.
“I don’t know who considers who a favorite,” she said. “I don’t think of myself as the favorite. I don’t want to be hunted.”