Medina’s Ali Garrity is joining some exclusive company. The Gazette’s 2011 MVP for girls tennis, Garrity joins three other former Bees — Suzanne Batten (1996-98), Lindsay Connors (1992, 94-95) and Beth Schaefer Winquist (1987-89) — as the only three-time winners of the award in the sport.
A junior, next year she will be out to become the sixth Medina County athlete to win four Gazette MVP awards in the same sport, which would enable her to join Ethan Dunbar (Cloverleaf boys tennis, 2007-10), Donny Roys (Medina boys cross country, 2005-08), Evan Hunter (Medina boys tennis, 2003-06), Max Schlather (Medina boys tennis, 1996-99) and Kari Eaton (Wadsworth girls cross country, 1995-98).
The 16-year-old Garrity is coming off a season where she became the first female Medina singles player to reach the state tournament — she lost 6-1, 6-2 to eventual Division I state champion Mehvish Safdar of Cincinnati Ursuline Academy in the first round — since Batten in 1998.
“If I’m going to lose to someone, I want it to be the state champion,” said Garrity, who went 23-6 to up her career mark to 65-18, virtually all those matches coming at the demanding first singles position. “To see how I played those three games I did win, that’s how (Safdar) plays consistently. I just need to get to where I’m playing at that level all the time and I’ll be right up there with her.”
A seasoned United States Tennis Association player, Garrity competes in the sport almost year-round. In addition to her time with the Medina program, she plays in numerous tournaments in the high school offseason and works regularly with Paramount Tennis Club pro Winquist, who finished third in the state in singles as a Medina senior in 1989.
“That match down at state, the girl that beat her was a little bit better than she was, but she’s not that far off,” Winquist said. “A couple of deuce games here and there were the difference.
“Shot for shot, Ali is right there. Ali played with her for four or five games. She’s there. She’s an inch away. We’ve just got to learn to put it together for an extended period of time.”
Garrity put it all together late in the regular season, when she beat Walsh Jesuit’s Katelyn Hissong and Hudson’s Kati Mdzinarishvili in straight sets in the same week.
The next week, however, she got drilled by Mdzinarishvili in the semifinals of the Medina Sectional and finished third, leading to a tougher draw at the Oberlin District, where she eventually grabbed the sixth and final state-qualifying spot. Meanwhile, Hissong beat Mdzinarishvili in the sectional final, giving both better district draws.
“Now I know what the state tournament is like and I know how important it is to come out as a higher seed,” Garrity said. “I definitely can compete with those girls.
“It’s a realistic goal to win state. It just takes practice and making sure I start perfecting all the little things. It’s stuff I can do in practice, but not always in matches.”
A left-hander, Garrity has all the shots. She’s got an above-average serve, great groundstrokes from both sides and the ability to finish points at the net.
“We just need to work on more mental toughness and maintaining a high level for two or three sets instead of a great four games and a loose three games,” Winquist said. “With another year under her, she’s going to be a top contender for the second day of the state tournament if she keeps working.”
Garrity is not afraid to put in the work. In fact, she loves the training aspect of the sport. She relishes receiving challenges from Winquist or Medina coach Pete Hoffmann, and she takes pride in her fitness level.
The 5-foot-4, 125-pounder also loves to compete, though there are times when her desire to succeed — and please everyone around her — creates added pressure.
“She’s a super-sweet girl and an extremely good sport,” Hoffmann said. “Sportsmanship is never an issue with her and she’s very coachable.
“She’s extremely serious on the court. She has that competitive edge, but she needs to relax. Enjoy this. Smile a little bit. She gets very into the moment and maybe puts more pressure on herself than she needs to.”
Off the court, Garrity has a great sense of humor.
As part of a high school sociology project, she is volunteering at Kitten Krazy, where she cleans cages and feeds the animals.
On one occasion, she walked by and saw a cat puking on a newspaper that was lining its cage. Upon closer inspection, Garrity discovered the article on that particular page was about her.
“I’m not sure,” she said, “but I’m pretty sure it was The Gazette.”
Garrity also still dreams of attending the University of California, Berkeley and becoming a film producer, though she’s now conflicted by thoughts of a career in physical therapy or sports medicine.
Then there’s her affinity for military academies, as she took an unofficial visit to Air Force over the summer and has heard from the Naval Academy.
“I don’t even know anymore,” Garrity said with a laugh when asked about her future plans. “How many times have I changed my mind, every year? I’m not even going to answer that question, because I’ll probably change my mind again as soon as I hang up the phone.”
One thing Garrity is certain of is that she wants to continue playing tennis, preferably on a college athletic scholarship.
“I love the competitive aspect of tennis,” she said. “That’s probably what I love the most. When I’m playing girls I haven’t beaten before and get to the third set or make them stay out there as long as possible, make them work, make them hit every winner on me, that’s fun.
“When I do better against a girl I’ve been losing to, that’s a win for me. It shows that I’m progressing.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.