II tournament strong contenders to reach state. They open postseason
play in the Dayton bracket at Centerville High School on Thursday.
Kirkland and Pardue decided to team up after giving the Rams their best
1-2 punch at first and second singles, respectively, in years. A big
part of the Rams’ state ranking (No. 12 last week), it’s a good bet
they’ll pack a wallop in the doubles tournament, too.
DAYTON – With homework, exams, regular-season matches and the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament, The Miami Valley School’s Katherine Pardue has plenty on her mind this week.
Mix in the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s sectional tournament and “it’s a tense time,” Pardue said.
And she’s a No. 1 sectional seed. Imagine how the rest of the bracket feels knowing the effort needed to keep their seasons alive.
Pardue and doubles teammate Julie Kirkland, though, enter the Division II tournament strong contenders to reach state. They open postseason play in the Dayton bracket at Centerville High School on Thursday. Kirkland and Pardue decided to team up after giving the Rams their best 1-2 punch at first and second singles, respectively, in years. A big part of the Rams’ state ranking (No. 12 last week), it’s a good bet they’ll pack a wallop in the doubles tournament, too.
“Obviously when you do this the goal is to win sectional,” Miami Valley coach Vin Romeo said of pairing Kirkland and Pardue. “You go into the district as a No. 1 and you get to play a No. 4 from somewhere else, then likely a No. 2 to get to state. What you don’t know is what No. 2 you'll play. Will it be a No. 2 from the toughest draw or a No. 2 from somewhere else?”
Pardue and Kirkland, both juniors, are willing to take their chance. The long-time friends wanted to pair up before possibly giving the singles tournament a shot next year. Pardue’s aggressive net game complements Kirkland’s baseline power. The trick is making that work at the same time. While Pardue has extensive doubles experience, it’s a relatively new thing for Kirkland.
“You have to communicate with each other a whole lot,” Pardue said. “It was a little different for Julie. I’ve been playing doubles since my freshman year. You just have to remember it’s tennis and you can’t get too serious about it.”
Their game styles aren’t their only difference. Kirkland comes from a tennis family. Brothers Ryan and Brent were standouts for Kettering Alter. Sister Erin also led the Knights before playing No. 1 singles at the University of Dayton. Sister Jessica plays on the WTA pro circuit. And Julie, the youngest, started playing at age 4 on a court in her parents’ backyard.
As for Pardue, her mom Karen plays at the Kettering Tennis Center. Katherine, who also tried gymnastics and dancing at an early age, always came back to tennis. She’s been playing since the first grade.
“I can’t imagine not playing tennis,” Pardue said. “That’s part of who I am.”
Pardue is looking for another identity this October. She’d like to be known as a state champion. But she’ll be happy with making an appearance at Columbus. Still, that state title is fun to think about.
“It’s hard not to talk about that. I wouldn’t say winning state but going to state is what (Julie and I) talk about,” Pardue said.
Kirkland, meanwhile, is enjoying this season as much as anyone. Home schooled in junior high and spending her freshman year at Middletown Fenwick, Pardue convinced Kirkland to attend Miami Valley. It’s been nothing but net gains for the tennis duo since.
“It’s just a small school and you know everyone,” Kirkland said. “ You can talk to the teachers about anything.”
Pardue and Kirkland hope they give the school something to talk about, themselves. So far so good. Kirkland is undefeated and Pardue’s lone loss came against Miamisburg when she was physically spent from a fever.
“(Julie) always has a respect for her opponent, but it’s business on the court,” Romeo said. “She wants to finish and get off the court as fast as she can. What I love most about Katherine, when things don’t go well you can almost see it in her eyes. She says, ‘Okay Katherine, it’s time to play.’ All of a sudden you see a change in her. … We go as they go. Obviously they have gone really well.”