Killer instinctsPublished 7:56pm Wednesday, October 2, 2013
At times it almost seems unfair. Washington tennis player Isabel Mayo relentlessly attacks at the net, armed with cat-quick reflexes that allow her to quickly deflect opponent’s shots … and sometimes catch them.
Both remarkable feats, but Pam Pack coach Miranda Whitney would prefer she stick to just hitting the ball back over the net.
However, you can’t blame Mayo for her instincts, which were sharpened by years of playing goalie on an all-girls ice hockey travel team in Raleigh.
“I like to volley and play up at the net,” Mayo said. “I play hockey and I’m a goalie so sometimes I’ll just catch it. I’ve done that a couple of times when the ball flies right at me.”
Though the occasional slip-up in reaction to a speeding object headed right at her happens, more often than not the Washington sophomore makes the right move, as evident by her undefeated Eastern Plains Conference singles and doubles record.
In fact, Mayo credits her goalie experience for helping her go 9-0 in both singles and doubles play this this season.
“If you have quick reaction time and you’re playing up at the net you can kind of move around and get to some balls,” Mayo said.
On Tuesday, the Pam Pack swept North Pitt 9-0, as Mayo, the team’s No. 2 seed, picked up a 6-3, 6-0 victory.
While there is no doubt she is nimble at the net, Whitney said the key for her against the Panthers was that she was able to make her opponent move.
“What I saw (Tuesday) was that she was a lot better at finishing her shots and moving her opponent around,” Whitney said. “I think that’s something she’s really good about because she’s a smart player. She’s good at moving her opponents around.”
Though she has incredible hand-eye coordination, Mayo also displays solid footwork.
“Her movement is really good,” Whitney said. “She is one of those players that can get to a lot more than other people can. She’s able to win more points just by playing good defense.”
Aside from the speed of the game, Mayo said it’s the intellectual aspect of tennis that intrigues her the most.
“You don’t have to be really good, but if you play smart than you can win,” Mayo said.
While her glove saves on the court can lead to some laughs, Whitney said Mayo’s personality also helps liven up practice.
“Isabel brings a lot of life to our practices,” Whitney said. “Sometimes more than is needed. There are times when you need to be serious and times when you have to have fun.”
As the postseason approaches, Mayo is strictly business and said that she wants to see the team play as long as possible.
“I want to get as far as we can in the playoffs,” Mayo said. “I want our whole team to go to state. That’s my goal.”