After plenty of individual victories, Kelly McCain led the Spartans to their first state title.
By STEVE LEE
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 13, 2001
WESLEY CHAPEL -- Saddlebrook Prep's Kelly McCain will join her brother, Danny McCain, as a collegiate player in the fall.
Their father and McCain's coach, Dave, said he believes his daughter is more likely to succeed as a pro.
"I think, right now, Kelly has a better chance," Dave McCain said. "She's got more desire."
Danny, who will be a senior at Michigan and plans to attend graduate school, has played No. 1, 2 and 3 singles. Having an older brother who has gone through the recruiting process and played on the amateur circuit has proven to be beneficial to McCain, who has signed with Duke.
"He's taught me how to deal with everything and to have patience," she said.
McCain, 18, has her sights set on the pros and is building quite a resume.
Last month, she led Saddlebrook to its first state title. She won the team singles title -- losing in the overall final -- and teamed with Emily Sechaud to win the overall doubles championship.
That came after McCain won the National Junior Open Championship in Orlando one week before winning the district tournament.
Winning a state title with teammates, which is much different than playing in tournaments as an individual, appealed to McCain. "It was very fulfilling," she said. "I was happy for the team."
Of greater significance, however, is McCain's No. 1 USTA ranking in girls 18s. And with the prep season concluded, she plans to spend the summer playing in amateur and pro tournaments. (She will not accept prize money in the pro tournaments in order to maintain her amateur status.) While McCain said she looks forward to being part of a team again when she gets to Duke, she also relishes the travel afforded by playing in international tournaments.
"You can see so many different cultures and the things they're known for," said McCain, who has played in the Far East and Europe.
Her love of travel and desire to play against the best players in her age group caused McCain to miss numerous school activities. However, earlier this month, she attended her first prom.
"You have to make a lot of sacrifices, and it's tough," McCain said. "There will be other proms when you're a sophomore, but how often can you go to Europe?"
Despite her success, McCain borders on shyness. She quietly responds to questions about her career.
Her father said part of the reason she maintains an even keel is because of some advice he gave her at a young age: "You see the same people on the way down as you do on the way up."
At 5 feet 2, 115 pounds, McCain is dwarfed by her brother, who is 6-0. But height -- or the lack thereof -- has never posed a problem for the fierce competitor.
"The bigger they are, the harder they fall," McCain said with a smile.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kelly McCain, Saddlebrook
COACH OF THE YEAR: Carol Pressick-Cooper, King
FIRST TEAM: KELLY McCAIN, Saddlebrook, Sr.: State doubles champ; led Spartans to state title.
BRIANNA WILLIAMS, Gaither, Fr.: State doubles champ; state semifinalist.
CRISTINA LUCIN, Wesley Chapel, Jr.: State semifinalist in singles and doubles.
KELLY NELSON, Shorecrest, Jr.: State individual semifinalist.
JENNIFER DENT, Countryside, Jr.: Team singles state champ; lost in overall final.
TIFFANIE KALVODA, Boca Ciega, Sr.: Four-time state qualifier; lost in semis.
MIRANDA GUTIERREZ, Tampa Catholic, So.: State singles semifinalist.
HONORABLE MENTION: Central -- Jen Ales; Canterbury -- Natalie Tirapelli; Dunedin -- Erin Heeder; Gaither -- Liz Rodgers; King -- Linda Tien; Lecanto -- Jessie Roberts; Saddlebrook -- Emily Sechaud, Diana Vinis; Tampa Prep -- Saras Arasu; Zephyrhills -- Courtney Dwyer.