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Defending the net

Observer photo by Al Frey Senior Kathy Joseph, 17, said this season she’s dedicated to again helping win the girls’ tennis championship, while improving her game.
Observer photo by Al Frey
Senior Kathy Joseph, 17, said this season she’s dedicated to again helping win the girls’ tennis championship, while improving her game.

Securing CVU girls’ tennis championship a goal of senior
Kathy Joseph

By Jess Wisloski

Observer staff

Kathy Joseph, the 17-year-old powerhouse co-captain of the Redhawks championship girls’ tennis team this this season, is ready to take on the world. In this case, that’s the NCAA Division III women’s tennis pros, which she’ll be up against when she starts at University of Texas–Dallas this fall.

In the meantime, though, she’ll settle for conquering South Burlington a few times,  and keeping a hold on the title won last year.

“We’re really excited about trying to defend that championship, but it’s also most of the returning team,” said Joseph. “We had a really strong group of freshmen last year who are now sophomores, so we have really bonded as a great team now.”

Being a co-captain puts Joseph, who’s been playing tennis since she was a preschooler, in a special role in this, her final, year. In addition to building up her game – she’s just begun playing doubles for the first time, after a career of strong singles play – she “builds the team’s spirits and keep that high,” she said.

And though she does see herself as a leader, especially when mentoring younger players with tips and advice on how to improve their match play, she said everyone takes turns leading. “We all know how to work together, and everybody has a role on the team to help lead it.”

But her coach, Amy deGroot, said there are some ways Joseph is a standalone.

Observer photo by Al Frey Senior Kathy Joseph, 17, talks to the Observer about her hopes for her tennis career after high school.
Observer photo by Al Frey
Senior Kathy Joseph, 17, talks to the Observer about her hopes for her tennis career after high school.

“Anyone playing against her or practicing with her can say they had a chance to play an opponent who hits with pace, placement and spin at a level not seen before in Vermont girl’s high school tennis. What she does with the ball is simply jaw-dropping.”

Despite being the same age or younger than some of her counterparts, Joseph has years of experience in the game, and perspectives gained from out-of-state tournaments and competitive play from an early age, she said. Her sisters Andrea Joseph, class of 2013 and Stephanie, class of 2018, were her earliest competitors.

“I can never remember how old I was when I started playing, but it seems like I’ve always been playing,” said Joseph. “My parents brought us to the Williston courts when we were in kindergarten. We would do drills as a family, all five of us,” she said. “I remember my mom feeding balls to us as a kid and all of us just running around the court.”

She didn’t realize how much she loved to play until she was in middle school.

“I didn’t get the choice to play but …[then] I decided I really like tennis and wanted to go forward with it and really focus on improving and becoming the best player I could be in high school,” she said.

Now she’s been accepted to college in a Division III school, but is still hanging on to her hometown dreams. A personal goal for her is to win the state individual tournament this year, but she’s also working on improving her transition game and net play.

“One thing I love about tennis is there’s always a stroke that you need to improve on, or a strategy that you’re working on,” she said. Even a shift like moving to playing doubles tournaments can make it feel “like a whole new game.”

Her best advice? “Not to focus on winning, but focus on playing every point, and trying my hardest. Just focus on the moment…If you lost a point, focus on winning the game. If you lost a game, focus on winning the set.”