Emma McCallie's Girls Preparatory School tennis career has been a steady mix of ability and adjustment. A hard hitter from early on, she's had to learn how to adapt when opponents adjust to her style, but she's always around.
McCallie will compete today in her fourth Rotary Invitational tournament, which starts this morning at three sites. The A Division competition, which includes local schools Baylor, GPS and McCallie, will take place at Baylor.
Signal Mountain's and Chattanooga Christian's teams are in the B Division, with the boys playing at McCallie and the girls at GPS.
The GPS senior won No. 5 singles in the Rotary as a freshman, when she was a starter on the last Bruisers state-championship team. She has been named to three Best of Preps tennis teams and has advanced to a Division II AA state doubles final as well as the semifinals in singles.
She is passing up chances to play NCAA Division III tennis at Sewanee and Centre to attend Virginia. She does plan to play for a traveling club team.
Although "consistent" could be used to describe her career as a Bruiser, McCallie stops short of believing it describes her game.
"I would like to think I've improved on my consistency, but it's never been an aspect that I've relied on," she said. "I wouldn't say that patience is one of my strengths. I've always hit the ball flat, so it's been interesting going against players that spin and slice. I've definitely had to adjust as I've gotten older, but I'm pretty stubborn on the court and try to stick to my game.
"That probably frustrates Coach [Sue] Bartlett and Coach [Meg] Bandy, but I try to stick with Plan A for as long as I can."
Bartlett said that although McCallie never has been her most consistent player, she's "improved" in that during her time at GPS. The coach also said the two-year team captain has grown in leadership.
"She's always been a leader for us," Bartlett said. "I think that she's improved in that aspect because she's matured over the years."
Said McCallie: "I definitely learned my leadership skills from up on the hill [school], not just down here. I've been able to implement those things from the classroom to the court -- how to lead in a wise and gracious way. I try to lead my example, and it's not easy, but I strive to do better every day."
The Bruisers' tennis rivalry with Baylor has been ratcheted up the past couple of seasons. GPS won its 2010 state team championship by beating Baylor, but Baylor more recently has won three Decoturf National Championship titles -- the first two over GPS in the finals. The Bruisers have finished second to the Lady Red Raiders in both the Rotary and Division II-AA state team tournament as well, and the two teams combined lost only one player from last year.
"Sometimes it's hard, but I know the team enjoys the close competition with them," McCallie said. "We know it's going to be a good match, and we have similar teams this year. I assume we'll have different lineups, but it's exciting to know every time we play it's going to be a great match.
"I love the pure competition and always look forward to it."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.