Amanda Chapman from Huntingtown High in Calvert County, MD., liked tennis but then took a couple years off from playing. Now she'll concentrate on the sport full-time after recently signing an athletic scholarship with Lees-McRae College.
"I think it's excellent for Amanda to go to college to play tennis and represent the Huntingtown area and Calvert County tennis in such a great way," Huntingtown head coach Rob Martin said. "It's great for the program and one more feather in our cap for one more athlete to play in college."
Chapman made her official visit to the Division II Banner Elk, N.C., school last fall and was sold almost immediately due in large part to the nature preserve on the campus.
"They have a wildlife refuge and I want to be a veterinarian so it would give me a lot of hands-on experience with the animals," said Chapman, who plans to major in biology. "And it was a really tiny school and it's in the mountains; it's a very, very pretty school."
Lees-McRae head coach Skylar Warren said he's excited to sign the 17-year-old Sunderland resident.
"Overall, we are very excited to have Amanda join our family in the fall," Warren said in an email, "and look forward to seeing her development as a tennis player."
But excelling on the courts didn't appear to be in the forseeable future for Chapman. Though she took up the sport at a young age thanks in large part to her tennis-playing parents, Chapman switched to basketball in middle school.
"I liked it right away, but I got tired of it," said Chapman, who instead took up basketball for a few years. "[Freshman year at Huntingtown] I heard there was a tennis team and I thought that was very cool. I really wanted to play a sport so... But no I didn't think I would [ever play in college]."
Chapman played No. 2 singles her sophomore year and was moved up to No. 1 last season. She took the reins at No. 2 this year and excelled with a 10-2 regular season record.
"She's just a very disciplined player and sticks to her own game; she doesn't try to fall into someone else's game plan; she plays her game win or lose," Martin said. "This year instead of playing as a backboard this year she's playing more offensive and taking more and more opportunities to finish points earlier in the game. And she's finishing quicker, rather than being on the court for two and-a-half, three hours, she's off in an hour and-a-half. She's developed quite a nice net game, but she is a baseline player; she's more comfortable there, but she can still come to the net and finish points."
Her only losses were to Ruthie Hornbuckle of Leonardtown and Northern's Kelly DePaulo. Nine of her 10 wins were in straight sets and nine of her games ended in shutouts.
"I feel I'm more of a singles player," she said. "I don't know why really, I guess I'm a court hog. I like being by myself; [playing doubles] I feel cramped."
She first caught the eye of Warren while playing in a showcase at The College of William & Mary (Va.) in November 2012.
"I thought she had a lot of raw potential, and competiveness," Warren said. "The first thing that I look for is the love for our school. She has a great personality that I think will fit in with the group of girls that we have on our team."
Chapman said she prefers playing the line and added that she's also trying to incorporate more net play into her game.
"I think if she can develop a weapon in her first serve to get her some free points, that'll make her match play a lot shorter," Martin said. "And she does have some doubles experience for us so hopefully that'll translate well and make her more of an all-around player."
Lees-McRae lost its first 12 matches this year en route to a 1-15 record (1-10 Conference Carolinas). The Bobcats' only win was a 6-3 victory over Tennessee's King College on April 2 and won just 17 games combined. Lees-McRae will lose one senior on the women's side, former Leonardtown Raider Emily Jones.
"I'm hoping to start, [the key will be] staying in shape and playing throughout the whole summer," Chapman said. "I just have to stay dedicated and work really hard at it."
Warren will be entering his second season as head coach in the fall.
"Amanda has a great competitiveness and the ability to find a way to win tennis matches," Warren said. "It is easy to teach tennis, but the ability to have the will to win has to be natural. I look to see Amanda competing for the No. 4 to 6 singles positions and [No.] 2 to 3 doubles positions. She will be a key factor in Lees-McRae winning team matches, as a lot of [them] are decided at the 4 to 6 singles positions."
Warren — a 2012 graduate of the college — said Chapman's biggest adjustment will be the pace of play at the collegiate level.
"The biggest learning curve when adjusting to college tennis is the pace of the ball and being able to stay solid throughout the whole match," he said, "and make your opponent beat you and not beat yourself."
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Chapman, LMC Athletics