Kelly Vanden may not have come away with the District 6 Class 3A singles’ title on Thursday — but she’s not upset.
For the past two years, the State College junior hasn’t made it past the quarterfinals. This season, she not only reached the girls’ tennis semifinals, she advanced to Thursday’s championship as the tournament’s No. 3 seed — and lost to the top seed, Altoona’s Jess Stevens, 6-2, 6-0.
“It’s a great feeling to finally make it to this point,” Vanden said, referring to her second-place finish. “In the first two seasons, I was definitely upset. I expected a lot more. But I finally made it to this point. I know my coaches are proud of me, and my family’s proud of me.”
Vanden, State College’s No. 1 singles player, has been a force all season. She’s remained one of the few constants on a team short on experience. Against Mercersburg on Tuesday, where the two teams agreed to play 15 matches, Vanden was the only Lady Little Lion to come away with a win. Two weeks ago, against state power Hershey, she rallied from one set down to once again account for the Lady Little Lions’ lone win in a 4-1 team loss.
At the District 6 tournament, at the Altoona Leopold Center, she continued to find success. She didn’t drop a single game in the quarterfinals Wednesday, cruised to a win over the No. 2 seed in the semifinals and punched her ticket to Thursday’s title match.
“I feel great about it,” Vanden said. “I wasn’t really expecting anything (this tournament). My goal was just to have fun and play some good girls.”
Vanden added that she would have been “genuinely surprised” if she knew, back in the preseason, that this was waiting for her. But now she’s looking forward to 2018 more than ever. After all, the player she lost to — Stevens — is a senior.
“It gives me a lot of confidence because now I know I can make it to this point and I have that in me,” Vanden said. “I can’t wait until next season.”