Blue Springs tennis player Caitlyn Sporing is not the type of player to overpower her opponents with scorching shots inside the boundary lines.
She’s not the tallest player at 5-foot-5, but she knows the game really well and is a savvy player who knows where to place the ball in certain situations, which more than makes up for her lack of power.
She used that formula for success to capture her first singles district championship as a sophomore, roll past Lee’s Summit West’s Datah Duong in sectionals and go 5-1 at the state tournament to finish fifth overall and earn all-state honors.
For her outstanding season and success at state, Sporing is the 2016 Examiner Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
“I wanted to go to state and place, and that’s exactly what I did,” said Sporing, who was the team’s No. 1 singles player since her freshman year.
The underclassman tallied a 21-3 singles record (5-1 in the Suburban Big Seven) and teamed with fellow teammate and state singles tournament qualifier Bentley Walters and put together a fine season with her, as well.
Last season, Sporing won a district championship in doubles play with Aspen Walters but decided to fly solo this time around in the individual tournament. She said her serves and her volleys have improved since last year which led to her singles success.
“My serve has gotten a lot better and it’s harder,” Sporing said. “Most people can’t return it. And with my volleys, I just get them in more.”
Blue Springs coach Jody McClain said she was really impressed with how quickly Sporing has applied what she learned in the offseason to games during the regular season and was pleased with her sophomore’s overall improvement.
“When her serve is in, it’s difficult to return,” McClain said. “And she’s learned to play with adults in adult classes and has learned a lot from people who’ve played for a long time. She’s learned crafty shots, spins, slices and volleys. And sometimes a young player’s game is just baseline power. But she’s got a lot of weapons in her arsenal. With her volleys, sometimes they don’t even know that she’s there and she comes up to the net and puts it away.”
McClain credited the improvement to her sophomore’s dedication and the massive amount of work that Sporing puts in toward tennis in the offseason.
“Her dedication is outstanding,” McClain said. “She’s always working on her game. She will never give up. She’s very competitive and fights hard. That was evident at state when she had to play two, three or four matches in one day. She wasn’t going to give up even when she was tired.”
While Sporing had a multitude of attributes that made her one of the premier players in the state, there was one thing that McClain said she could improve on that could potentially make her a state champion one day.
“The person who won had everything Caitlin has,” McClain said. “The one difference I saw was the speed of the ball. The pace. The power.”
Sporing immediately added: “I’m little.”
That’s one thing that Sporing plans on working on, improving the power on her shots.
“That’s something I am definitely going to be working on,” Sporing said. “I am weightlifting three times a week. Hey, I can do a pull-up now.”
But although she’s not quite where she wants to be yet, tennis has fit Sporing like a glove. When she was younger she tried other sports like gymnastics, soccer and softball, but none of those seemed like a good fit. She’s been playing tennis since she was 6 and that was the sport that stuck. With the way her game is trending upward, it appears she made the right choice to focus on tennis.
“I guess I kind of like playing by myself and depending on myself,” she said.
That’s one of the many reasons why McClain said Sporing has a bright future.
“She’s in a big position to be a leader even as time goes on,” McClain said. “When she’s a junior and senior, people will be looking to her. I’ve seen the growth in her from the beginning of the season until now and how she’s improved.”
Even while she’s going to be taking a serious role as a leader, she’s still going to have fun playing the sport she loves.
“I like to sing and dance during practice,” Sporing said. “And I sing to myself during matches. Sometimes I make other people join. I just sing my favorite song at the moment.”