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It's hard to imagine how an 84-3 record over three seasons could in any way be disappointing, but the expectations for Leah Barnes are monumental.
After all, before she ever enrolled at Canterbury High School, Barnes had already played for two Fort Wayne women's City Tennis Tournament titles. Then as a freshman she played for the state title and as a sophomore she finished third in the state. In her recently completed junior season, Barnes finished 25-1 after losing to North Central's Claire Reifeis 7-5, 6-4 in the semistate.
``People are like, `You are going down and you are supposed to be going up. Oh, Leah, what happened, I thought you were supposed to win it all and you don't even get to state, ' '' Barnes said.
But Barnes, The News-Sentinel PrepSports Tennis Player of the Year for the third year in a row, has everything in perspective, and thinks her loss in the semistate can push her to her ultimate goal next year as a senior.
``Next year I'm going to try to make it to state and win it,'' she said. ``I'm really motivated. When I lost this year, I was really down, but I'm using it as motivation.''
In fact, a couple of hours after the loss, Barnes was already back hitting on the court with some friends.
It's hard to imagine a high school athlete from the area who has been more dominating. All of Barnes' 25 wins this season came in straight sets, and she was rarely challenged. Few players can match her power, and almost nobody tries.
``It's not very often she ever gets behind in sets, and this year two or three times she got down in sets but she kept her cool and stuck with her gameplan and still finished strong,'' Canterbury coach Jerry Gerig said. ``It can be easy to get tight in those situations because they don't happen very often, but I saw her come back early on in a couple of sets that didn't start well for her.''
So what does she need to work on to reach her goal next year? The biggest thing is probably face better competition in the off-season.
``We're encouraging her out of season to play as much as she can,'' Gerig said. ``Between now and next year we'd love to see her getting into some big tournaments and seeing more big hitters. She can play with anybody but she needs to see that on a regular basis.''
The Cavaliers already play one of Northeast Indiana's most-competitive schedules, annually playing top Indianapolis teams two or three times per season. The hard part is trying to get them to come this way once in a while. They already have brutal schedules just playing teams in the capital city.
Barnes said she needs to hit more with college players or specifically male college players. She also wants to keep improving her forehand and her footwork to increase her quickness.
``We all know her goal is to ultimately win a state title,'' Gerig said. ``She's been to the finals twice and the logical goal is to win the actual title. We don't focus a lot specifically on that, but we do focus on doing things to get her better every season. I think she's going to be really hungry for it, knowing that next year is her senior year. She'll really want to put the time to raise her game.''
Leah Barnes, Canterbury, junior
Rachel Sutton, Carroll, senior
Kylie Fredrick, Huntington North, junior
Brittany Barger, Norwell, senior
Natalie Rahrig, Bishop Luers, senior
Chelsea Himes, Canterbury, senior
Makenzie Schoeff, senior, and Taylor Stanchin, junior, Carroll
Audrey Rang, senior, and Lynelle Lee, senior, Bishop Dwenger
Sydney Ford, senior, and Macie Hinen, junior, Columbia City