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Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2007

Youth medal sparked KU’s Smith

Former Salina Central star fell in love with tennis at young age

April 29, 2007

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A medal first got Stephanie Smith interested in tennis.

Smith, now a junior on the KU tennis team, was 9 years old and playing in her first novice tennis tournament 15 minutes outside of her hometown, Salina. She didn't win the tournament, but she got a medal.

"It's kind of kept me going," she said.

When Smith fell in love with the sport, she had to go elsewhere to get her fix. Smith's parents had to drive her to Kansas City or Wichita for coaching and indoor courts. Before Smith's sophomore year of high school, she decided to move to Kansas City to attend the Mike Wolf tennis academy.

She was home schooled and practiced five hours every day with an extra hour of conditioning.

"It was all tennis," Smith said. "School was kind of pushed aside. Your family was pushed aside. Your social life was pushed to the side. It was a huge focus on tennis, and it was kind of what I wanted at the time."

Smith said she did not have aspirations to play tennis professionally, but she thought the academy gave her a better shot at someday landing a college scholarship.

She was improving her game, but she missed her family and missed her home. After six months, she moved back to Salina and became a regular high-school student again at Salina Central.

"I'm glad I tried (the academy) because I always would have wondered what it would have been like if I didn't," she said. "So I'm glad I did it, but I'm also glad that I decided to come back home."

Smith was a three-time state runner-up in singles play at Salina Central, and her play caught the eye of KU coach Amy Hall-Holt.

"I always wanted to come to KU," Smith said. "I looked at some other schools in the Midwest, but ultimately decided this was the place for me. It was close to home, had a good business school and I liked the team."

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