Ashleigh Kaberline is 2008 Examiner All-Area Girls Tennis Player of the Year
Blue Springs South’s Ashleigh Kaberline was excited about returning to the state tennis tournament this year.
But even more important to her was her team’s success.
Kaberline, The Examiner’s 2008 All-Area Tennis Player of the Year, played No. 1 singles for South all year for the third year in a row. And though she won an individual district title, she said it was watching the doubles team of Stephanie Adams and Peyton Swanegan win fifth that was the best part of the district tournament.
The win for the doubles team clinched fourth place for South as a team, which meant they continued on through the playoffs. If Adams and Swanegan had lost, Blue Springs would have placed fourth.
“I was still on a high from winning it all, but I felt like I forgot all about it then,” she said. “I was just watching their game and, of course you want to win. It’s Blue Springs. And you don’t want someone else’s season done. I was hoping to play doubles again. I was really excited. That win was better than winning districts honestly.”
That team-first attitude is exactly what coach Craig Dierking loves about having Kaberline - a junior - on the team.
“If we have to cut practice short for rain, she’s off hitting shots at the club,” he said. “And then she’s getting the other girls to join the club and getting girls to her level.
“She does all the right thing. She’s a great role model to the whole team, if she was No. 1 or not.”
This is Kaberline’s third year as being the No. 1 player for South. She started at No. 1 as a freshman, when she first qualified for state. However, she failed to qualify as a sophomore.
Despite missing state for a year, Kaberline said that was not her No. 1 goal for the year.
“It was just a thing,” she said. “I just wanted to improve my record this year, and bond even more with the team. I mean, I knew it would be awesome if it happened, but it wasn’t something I was going to kill myself over if I didn’t go.”
Dierking said he did know that getting back to the state tournament was something Kaberline wanted, even if it was down her list of goals after just barely missing out on reaching the district finals.
“You could see how disappointed she was last year when she got third (at districts),” he said. “You knew she didn’t do as well as she wanted. She knows she’s a good player and she gets frustrated when she doesn’t play her best. But this year, she took care of business. It was awesome.”
That experience of being No. 1 in singles for two years came in handy for Kaberline this year, as she helped lead the Jaguars to a strong season in which they finished third in the Suburban Big Seven.
And most of the team was still young, as the top four singles players were all juniors or younger.
That experience, combined with working hard in the offseason, is something Kaberline is hoping will get the Jaguars move on even further next year.
“I think this year, we have a lot of girls - almost the entire varsity team - playing outside of high school,” she said. “It made a big difference.
“Everyone knows we can do well. Next year, we want to get back to sectionals, but instead of finishing fourth, we want to finish second or third.”
Only a junior, Kaberline’s attention is still focused on schoolwork, tennis and soccer. She’s been a two-year varsity player for South in soccer as well.
However, she’s hoping her tennis career can continue past her years at South.
“I would love to play in college,” she said. “I was talking to Coach Dierking the other day. We were looking online, and thinking about possibly sending out some profiles to colleges. I’m no D-I player. I’m looking at smaller schools. It would be awesome.”
Dierking said Kaberline will do well at whatever she wants to do in life, on and off the court.
“If I could say, ‘Give me a player who is a great student and a great athlete,’ it would be her,” he said. “She always does the right thing. Wherever she goes, she’s going to be a success. Whatever she chooses to do, she’s going to be a major success.”