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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Good fortune lands Dial at state tournament

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In this file photo, Sikeston senior Kelsey Dial returns a shot against Poplar Bluff Aug. 10 at Sikeston High School. Dial is making her third trip to the MSHSAA state tennis tournament -- once in doubles and second in singles play. David Jenkins, Staff
SPRINGFIELD -- Call it a rare occurrence, good fortune or just downright lucky.

It's not every day a forfeit sends an individual to a state competition, but in Kelsey Dial's case -- who calls it divine intervention -- she'll take it no matter how or why it happened.

"It took a lot of effort to get to this point and fortunately I was lucky enough to have divine intervention in the sectional," she said.

For the second time in her high school tennis career, Dial will compete at the MSHSAA state tennis tournament.

Dial does not yet know who she will face Friday when the tournament starts. The draw to see who faces who will take place tonight.

It's her first year as an individual player attending state after first going her sophomore year as one half of a doubles tandem with Jacarra Lampkin in 2010.

Dial was one of the few individual players who advanced to the state tournament after a forfeit from her Class 1, Sectional 1 opponent Buse Becker from North County.

According to Dial, Becker sustained an injury that prohibited her from taking part in the sectional round which precedes state.

Although she's thankful for the opportunity to represent the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs tennis team, as well as herself, Dial can't help but feel a little bummed about her sectional situation.

"It kind of disappoints me that I didn't get to go out there and play," she said. "I'd rather have that win because I earned it. Not to just get it for free. It gets me warmed up and allows me to see what the other competition is other than around here."

Her disappointment may stem from her unfortunate ending to last year's sectional match-up against Lutheran South's Jessica Rackers, who ended Dial's junior season 6-4, 7-5.

Other than her sophomore year, it's one of the few times Dial has seen competition away from the immediate area.

"The competition is very tough," Dial said about state-level opposition. "It's nothing like around here."

Dial is known around the southeast Missouri tennis circle as one of the toughest, Class 1 competitors there is. The senior lost just two matches this season, one being from a United State Tennis Association (USTA) junior midwest champion from Carbondale, Ill., who defeated Dial rather handedly, 8-0.

Although the score was lopsided, Sikeston head tennis coach, Russ Dial, thinks she played Carbondale's standout very well.

The best Carbondale had to offer won't be too far from what Kelsey Dial will see Friday when she begins state play.

"The competition up there is extremely tough," coach Dial said. "Some of the teams have huge rosters -- some of them 50 players with four coaches. It's just a different tennis culture with some of the schools around the Kansas City and St. Louis area. That's the sort of thing she has to contend with.

"You have kids that have had private lessons since they were little and some of them that will be there have even had live-in instructors within their homes."

Although the thought of playing someone who quite possibly has had a racket in their hand throughout their entire life is a little daunting, coach Dial doesn't think there's much separation between his star and what the rest of the state has to offer.

"My expectations for her, and I'm sure she'll meet these expectations, are to give it her best effort," Dial said. "I'm sure she'll be far from the worst player up there, but there's also a good possibility she could finish in the top 10."

Dial's game heavily consists of a defensive strategy. She may, arguably, be the best at protecting her lines and driving her opposition mad trying to cut through Dial's defense.

"I expect that she will do well, because she's such a good defensive player," said coach Dial. "I don't think there will be anyone up there that will embarrass her."

Despite Dial's defensive expertise, both her and coach Dial know it will take more than defending her court for her to make a dent in the bracket at state.

"It's not the best strategy in the world for a state tournament -- maybe the first couple of rounds," coach Dial said. "But, if she were to make it past the first couple of rounds, she's going to see players who approach and volley at the net and play an all-court game. That's the type of game you want to have when you go to state.

"Kelsey's, mainly, a counter-puncher," coach Dial added. "Sometimes that can get her into trouble against really, really good players.

Who knows? Knowing what she's going to be up against may be just the mindset needed at state to turn a few scorecards upside down.

Or maybe, a little more intervention may shine her way.

"I expect to face tough competitors," Dial said. "I want to go out there and do my best, but it's going to try my patience a little bit. I know how good they are already. It's going to be tough.

"If maybe some more divine intervention comes along, who knows what might happen."

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