By BURT ANGELI
IRON RIVER - What makes a U.P. Tennis Player of the Year?
Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo
West Iron County’s Kylee Erickson (above), U.P. Co-Player of the Year with Escanaba’s Codi Jenshak, captured U.P. and Great Northern Conference titles this fall. Erickson, who beat Jenshak in the GNC finals, downed the Esky senior in two of three matches this season.
In the case of West Iron County's Kylee Erickson, credit conditioning, dedication, power hitting and patience.
The Wykon senior and Escanaba's Codi Jenshak were named co-players of the year by U.P. tennis coaches.
"I would consider the biggest strength of my game to be the fact that I have always kept myself in such great shape," Erickson said. "It takes a lot for me to become exhausted in a match.
"I'm willing to work for every point, even if that point happens to last 100 shots."
Erickson is also dedicated to the game, more than just a fall activity for the U.P. Division 2 and Great Northern Conference champion.
"I put a lot of hours in this summer working for my senior season," she said. "This season I was much more selective about going for winners. When I had a green light, I went for it. And it really paid off."
Late this past season, Erickson had a heart-to-heart with herself and vowed to stay positive despite tough times on the court.
"I want to have fun and be patient,' Erickson said after beating Jenshak for the GNC No. 1 singles title. "I never knew such a positive attitude."
She was a basketball player, first and foremost, until tennis came into her life.
"I've always been a basketball player so I never dreamed I'd fall in love with another sport," Erickson said. "But I did just that, right from the beginning I was hooked. I wanted to get better and fast. I begged my mom to take me to the courts."
Her stepfather, West Iron County boys tennis coach Joe Serbentas, put a racket in her hands for the first time.
"I really owe it to my stepdad for initially getting me into tennis," she said. "I owe it to my mother (Tricia) for going out and hitting with me. Once I was able to beat her consistently, I moved on to playing my stepdad.
"Just for the record, I can beat him now too."
West Iron County Coach Denise Spelgatti noted during the GNC finals that Erickson wears down opponents to win points. That's where skill and conditioning comes into play.
"I've always done a lot of conditioning on my own," she said. "When track season ends in June, I'm always in my best shape. In the summer, I always stay motivated."
Iron River's Nelson Field proved to be perfect spot for honing her tennis and staying in peak shape. When not on the courts, she's right next door at the football field-track doing a mix of long distance and sprints, and running the bleachers.
"After practices, I always made myself run home, too," Erickson said. "My coach always teased me for this."
Erickson's competitive tennis career may continue. But at what level is up in the air.
"I have contemplated the decision a lot," said Erickson, considering a tennis career at a small college or a big university and play for fun. "As of now, my plans are to attend the University of Michigan. I'd love to try out for a competitive club team and keep playing."
Area tennis landed another major honor with Kingsford's Mark Shanks selected regional coach of the year. Shanks guided the Flivvers to U.P. Division 1 and GNC titles.
In other All-U.P. awards, Kingsford's Samantha Fleming was selected to Division 1 singles. The Flivvers also had two doubles teams (Anna Shanks-Kate Lamy and Janay Walters-Ali VanRemortel) recognized.
Erickson was an All-U.P. Division 2 singles selection with Laurie March and Katie Brule of Iron Mountain. Mountaineers' Katie Lusardi-Sarah Pirkola earned U.P. doubles honors.