This time a year ago, when she was a Medina High freshman, Ali Garrity had her heart set on attending the University of California before embarking on a career as a film producer.
Now the 15-year-old sophomore is thinking she might want to go to college on the opposite coast and major in marine biology.
“I’m not sure about the whole West Coast thing anymore,” the repeat Gazette MVP in girls tennis said with a laugh. “I went to theWest Coast this summer for my cousin’s graduation and saw Berkeley (home of the University of California) and UCLA. I liked the campuses and all, but I’m not sure if I want to go that far west. Now, I’m thinking more East Coast.
“I guess I’m still clueless when it comes to what I want to do.”
The owner of a great sense of humor and as fun-loving off the court as she is serious on it, Garrity does know one thing for sure: She wants to continue playing tennis in college.
Before she does that, though, the 5-foot-4, 125-pound sophomore still has two more high school seasons left to play. After going 21-7 as a freshman and coming within one win of reaching the Oberlin Division I District, Garrity made that leap this year— she finished 21-5 overall— after finishing third in singles at the Oberlin Sectional.
Were it not for a tough open in ground district match against eventual state qualifier Natalie Robson of Revere— Garrity lost 7-5, 7-5— she might have even progressed two levels and reached Columbus this season.
“The sky’s the limit for Ali,” Medina coach Pete Hoffmann said.“Shemade some huge steps this year, even in the matches she lost.
“Ali got a lot of compliments from other coaches who hadn’t seen her since the year before. They said it was amazing how much she improved her game.”
There’s a fairly simple explanation for that improvement: Garrity works at her game almost year-round.
In addition to high school practices, she works with Paramount Tennis Club professional Beth Schaefer Winquist, who finished third in the state in singles in 1989 as a senior at Medina, and competes in numerous United States Tennis Association tournaments.
“She definitely has the goal to make state and she wants to get some college offers,” Hoffmann said. “There were plenty of days she’d have our two-hour practice, then stay and hit afterward or go to a club and practice. She often put in three to four hours a day.”
That work helped Garrity finish second to Hudson’s Alex Bastok in the rugged Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division Tournament at first singles and meet her season goal of qualifying for districts.
A trip to the state tournament as a spectator, where she warmed up Westlake third place singles finisher Lauren Golick, whetted Garrity’s appetite even more.
“I would warm her up, then go to her matches,” she said. “It made me want to play there so bad.”
That is the goal for 2011, but first comes a busy “off” season for Garrity.
Having previously attended a college tennis exposure camp at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, she will go to another in Florida before her junior season. The left-hander will also play in USTA tournaments in Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Dayton — all before the end of January.
“I don’t feel any pressure about getting a scholarship,” Garrity said. “If there’s any pressure, it’s me putting it on myself. I’m looking for a Division I school on the East Coast, so I have to keep my goals up.
“In my high school years, I’m starting to have more fun playing tennis than I’ve ever had. It’s such a good thing to get into for the rest of your life. You can have a good career and get a good education. It’s such a tool to get into college. It makes me think more about the future than anything else ever had.”
Of course, Garrity, who owns a 3.2 grade-point average, is still a 15-year-old. As such, she has a lot of big dreams, and sometimes those dreams change from year to year or even from day to day.
Right now, though, the ultimate would be to one day win a state singles championship by hitting a shot between her legs on match point.
“It’s going to be the state championship finals, 7-5, 5-7 and in a tiebreaker in the last set,” she said. “I’m going to hit a tweener down the line. That’s how it’s all going to end.”
Then again, it could be just the beginning if Garrity reverses field, goes to Cal-Berkeley and produces a documentary on her state title.
If she later transfers to a school on the East Coast, takes up marine biology and films the winning shot under water, now that would really be some ending.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.