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Pooley striving for ESD title

Sammy Pooley is determined. Heading into her final two tennis competitions of her junior season, Pooley is looking to make her mark on South Dakota girls tennis. She's also hoping the hard work she's put in throughout the offseason and in the sea...

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Mitchell's Sammy Pooley delivers a forehand shot during no. 1 singles action against Rapid City Central earlier this year at Hitchcock Park in Mitchell. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Sammy Pooley is determined.

Heading into her final two tennis competitions of her junior season, Pooley is looking to make her mark on South Dakota girls tennis. She's also hoping the hard work she's put in throughout the offseason and in the season will be enough for the Kernels to win the Eastern South Dakota Conference meet, which begins today in Brandon.

"I think we've had a goal and I've had the goal since the beginning of the season to win the ESD," Pooley said. "The season has been going really well."

Entering today's ESD meet, Mitchell is 18-6 overall and 10-2 in the ESD. In No. 1 singles, Pooley is 17-5 and had an 11-game winning streak this season. At last year's ESD meet, Pooley failed to place at the meet as the Kernels finished fifth as a team. This year, Pooley said many of the top No. 1 singles players in the ESD graduated, leaving the door open for her.

"I knew I would have a chance to contend for a title," Pooley said. "I've worked super hard in the offseason. Not only playing tournaments, taking lessons and hitting with the team, but by getting stronger and faster. It's paid off."

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Pooley's top competition in the ESD meet, will be Watertown's Allie VanDerWeide and Harrisburg's Sydney Rott. Pooley defeated VanDerWeide 10-2 earlier this season and narrowly fell to Rott 11-9 in the first match of the season.

Mitchell head coach Pat Moller said he's enjoyed watching opposing coaches coach against Pooley this year because of how much his No. 1 singles player has improved.

"She's so much smarter as a player than where she was a few years ago and she plays like a No. 1," Moller said. "She's very aggressive and she has the shots to back that aggressiveness up. When you're a No. 1 as a freshman and as a sophomore, you become mentally strong very quickly and she's seeing the rewards of that now."

On the court, Pooley said she's developed topspin for more of her shots along with improving physically. Her three years competing at No. 1 singles have taught her many lessons.

"I've learned that it takes hard work and you can't be lousy during the winter and summer," Pooley said. "You have to be determined and never give up. Every match matters, you can't look past anything. I never give up on a point and try to get to every ball. When you see other players get down, you have to keep pushing."

As the Kernels compete in the ESD meet and the state tournament next week in Rapid City, Pooley, who is 15-7 at No. 1 doubles with teammate Avery Larson, said Mitchell is playing with plenty of confidence.

"I do feel like we're playing our best tennis," said Pooley, who noted the team's 7-2 win over Brandon Valley on Tuesday, after the Kernels only beat the Lynx 5-4 earlier in the season. "We are starting to close the gaps on some of those teams."

Main mentality

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Alongside some physical improvements on the court, both Pooley and Moller noted the importance of the mental aspect of tennis. Throughout any tennis match, players experience plenty of highs and lows.

"Mentality is a big factor," Pooley said. "I've lost matches and games from losing my mindset. Mindset is everything and you have to move on to the next point."

Moller said Pooley's mental approach to the sport is the best on the team.

"With tennis, it's such a mental game and it's kind of like golf, where the game is mostly mental, except tennis is physically exerting, as well. The girls' mental toughness is starting to show through," Moller said. ""It helps with believing in your ability. I'm just proud of the way of the way that they're playing. We're a tougher team and we're out there to win."

In the past few years, Mitchell tennis has generated plenty of buzz throughout the city and across the state. The Kernel boys tennis team has won three straight ESD titles and the girls team is eager to bring their own conference title home.

"Everyone has noticed how our season is going and the girls below us have noticed that," Pooley said. "I wanted them to notice that it takes hard work but it's worth it."

After the ESD meet, the Kernels will head to the state meet and Pooley said she and the Kernels need to stay focused.

"We have to be determined," Pooley said. "In the No. 1 Flight, everyone is good and every match will be difficult. I can't look past any of them."

Related Topics: KERNELSTENNIS
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