Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sophs compete in national tennis event

There will be plenty of excitement for Xavier Prep sophomores Emily Even and Erica Stutz this weekend when they represent Arizona in the U.S. Tennis Association’s junior national tournament in Orlando, Fla.

The two players burst on the scene for the Gators a year ago, playing freshman tennis in the fall and graduating to the varsity for the spring, where they made significant contributions.

“Emily in particular has come a long way in such an incredibly short time,’’ said Xavier coach Laurie Martin. “She has a ton of natural power and is becoming a lot better at controlling things on the court.’’

Stutz has been one of the area’s top age-group players for quite some time. She continues to develop her skills that should carry her a long way.

“It’s going to be exciting to watch these two here over the next three years,’’ Martin said.

Even said she has known Martin since the fifth grade, when she participated in various camps.

“I’ve heard about and watched some of the great players who have gone before me, and it gave me a desire to play here,’’ Even said.

She has a good athletic heritage. Her sister, Kate, played volleyball for XCP a few years ago.

“My improvement has come through a lot of hard work,’’ Even said. “The coaches I have had along the way saw something in me, and that helped give me confidence.’’

The support she has received from her teammates also has been helpful.

One thing that helps her during a match is that she is able to focus on her breathing.

“I just tell myself to relax and do it just like I do in practice,’’ she said.

The academic aspect of being at Xavier is something that required an adjustment.

“It entails a lot more work and you have to make sure you are prepared,’’ she said. “I did OK during freshman tennis but the varsity (time commitments) was a lot tougher. There were times when I would not get home until nine at night and still had to do some homework. Now it’s a lot better. I know what to expect.’’

Stutz said she has heard stories that her father bought her a racquet before she was even born.

“So I have been swinging a racquet for a long time and have been practicing every day since I was five,’’ she said. “I am thankful for all of the opportunities I have had.’’

Sportsmanship is important. Stutz recently received an award for that from the Central Arizona chapter of the USTA. And she is involved in community projects.

One of the projects is a tennis and soccer equipment gathering and distribution program for young people in northern Mexico. Stutz said the equipment is shuttled from Tucson to the Nogales area for distribution.

She also is involved in the National Charity League.

“I have always loved working with people and like to do so any chance I can,’’ Stutz said.

On the court, she tries not to get too excited about a good shot or hang her head when a shot doesn’t fall in her favor.

“A lot of people show emotion, but I try not to do that,’’ she said. “I used to yell once in awhile when I was younger. I still get angry but now I realize that I am healthiest when I am happy.’’

A good showing by Stutz and Even this weekend would make everybody happier.

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