Parkway South sophomore Khayli Buckels wanted to reach the girls state tennis tournament in singles competition. She has achieved what she set out to do.
“Some goals I set for myself this season were to win all of my matches and hopefully be able to get to state,” Buckels said. “I planned to go state in singles to help improve my singles game, and reach my full potential.”
Buckles was undefeated this season in singles play, going 14-1. She went 10-1 in doubles play for a combined 24-1 overall record this fall.
Patriots coach Nick Tanurchis is excited for his talented sophomore.
“We are excited to return to the state tournament and are expecting it to be fun challenge,” Tanurchis said. “Even with the addition of Class 3, we know there will be strong competition and the bracket will be hard-fought matches.”
Reaching state is not new to Buckels. She went to state last year in doubles play. She teamed with senior Maggie Moore and they finished sixth in Class 2 to earn a medal. Buckels was the No. 1 player on varsity last year, and she held onto that spot this season.
“As a freshman I believed that I played well considering the stress of being No. 1 on varsity in my first year,” Buckels said. “However, this year I definitely have grown because I have learned new skills over the past year.”
That first state competition last fall taught Buckles how to cope with pressure. She said the experience opened her eyes to the “hundreds of players there are that are amazing at tennis.”
“My experience at state my first year was great, and I hope this year will be better,” Buckels said.
Tanurchis said Buckels showed “great focus and grit” last year at state.
“Getting that taste of state during her freshman year I think was a great learning experience for her and hopefully inspires her to work harder and keep coming back,” Tanurchis said.
Of course, the coronavirus slowed Buckels down as it did for many teams and individuals.
“The virus stopped my play from March to April and even longer, especially from my parents being very cautious about my safety,” Buckels said. “After that, I continued to do private lessons and as summer progressed, I played every day with my tennis group. Practicing was actually easy because everyone at my tennis club was very cautious, so it gave me the opportunity to play as much as possible.”
Tanurchis said the pandemic made it difficult for everyone.
“To stay mentally focused on tennis while also maintaining physical safety, and being able to adapt to the changes of our schedule being pushed back two weeks, and not knowing day-to-day if it could all of the sudden come to a stop,” Tanurchis said. “It was such a great feeling to just be together as a team and enjoy as much of a normal season as possible.”
Buckels believes she has shown considerable improvement from last year in her game this year.
“I am very confident in my game this year, especially learning new skills such as my slices,” Buckels said. “My strengths on the court are my forehands and backhand slices, well as the improvement of my serve.”
“This year, I feel her biggest strength is likely the variety of shots she has added to her game,” Tanurchis said. “Her point construction and transitional game have been excellent, along with her focus, grit and her ability to stay positive throughout a match.”
In the Class 3 District 2 tournament, the top-seeded Buckels won her two matches. She defeated Lafayette’s Saanvi Gudreddi 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals. In the championship match, she dispatched Lafayette’s Trisha Kosereju 6-2, 6-0.
“Before the district tournament I got a lot of hitting in with my teammates every day as well as having privates every week,” Buckels said. “In the district semifinals, I believed I played really well in the beginning. It was a rocky start but I got my strength up and started to hit through ball and began to win points.
“In the championship match, I was very determined to win because I wanted to be high up in the (state) draws as well as having confidence going into state.”