Staff photo by Kathryn Ingall
WOODSTOCK — Mallory Gilmer was nearly unmatched on the tennis court this season.
Playing No. 1 singles, the Etowah ace went 16-2, defeating each Cherokee County opponent she faced, and she handed one of the top players from eventual state champion Walton, Bella Kuse, a loss during the regular season.
Gilmer, a sophomore, appeared immune to the pressure.
“Tennis is such an individual sport where you don’t get to be a part of a team very often,” she said. “I love that aspect of it, and the girls just fed off of each other, and I never felt the pressure too bad.”
Expectations coming into the season were high after Etowah reached the second round of the state playoffs in 2014. Talented additions, including Gilmer, had many observers thinking this could be a banner year for the Lady Eagles.
“We didn’t try to get ahead of ourselves,” Gilmer said. “We just tried to take it a match at a time and, overall, I think it was a great experience for the whole team.”
By the end of the season, Etowah had worked its way to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals. While Gilmer couldn’t have gotten that far on her own, the Lady Eagles couldn’t have done it without her.
For her accomplishments this season, Gilmer is the 2015 Cherokee Tribune Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
Gilmer has played tennis for nearly 10 years. Once a soccer player, she gave up that sport to play tennis full-time.
Now, Gilmer practices for five hours every Tuesday and Thursday. The other five days of the week, she “takes it a little easier.”
Gilmer joined the team at Etowah after playing her freshman year at Johnson Ferry Christian Academy in east Cobb, but she wasn’t a stranger to coach Billie Morgan.
“I remember watching her play since she was young,” Morgan said. “She and her sister, Madeline, both play and I’ve seen them at Eagle Watch since they were both little. Mallory was playing against the high school girls even then and I knew that she was going to be a very good addition, if I ever got her.”
Morgan said she looked forward to the day that Gilmer would find her way to Etowah. Now, she’s excited about another two seasons with the talented player.
“She is a fantastic player,” Morgan said. “I really do look forward to seeing her, over the next two years, get even better than she was this year, and she was very good this year.”
As much as Morgan is looking forward to having Gilmer on her roster, the Etowah ace is eager to see what she can accomplish with her team in the future.
“It’s very, very exciting,” Gilmer said. “I can’t wait to see what is to come for this team.”
Between now and next season, Gilmer will play in junior tournaments. The recruiting process has also begun for her and she is looking at possible college destinations.
“It’s a very stressful process, but also exciting to see all the opportunities ahead,” Gilmer said. “You get to pick where you are going to spend four years.”