2017 Girls Tennis Player of the Year: Venable makes mark with Skyline tennis

Skyline's Kaylee Venable finished her career with the school record for most wins at No. 1 singles. Venable reached the Conference 28 individual singles tournament semifinals this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — Kaylee Venable made history during her time on Skyline’s girls tennis team.

The senior won the most matches in school history in the No. 1 singles spot and was also the only player to play at that position for four years.

“I’m definitely happy with what I accomplished,” Venable said. “I set a goal in eighth grade that I was going to play No. 1 all four of my years. So I did that. Mainly, I’m happy that I improved every year. At the end of each season, I looked back and said ‘Ok I had a better season than the year before,’ and that’s what I was going for the whole time.”

Venable’s improvement during her senior year helped her finish with another school record — for most wins at the No. 1 singles position in one season. She finished this year with a 12-4 record.

Venable, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2017 Girls Tennis Player of the Year, advanced to the Conference 28 individual singles semifinals, where she came up one win short of a regional berth.

Skyline coach John Natalie said you could see a real difference in her play from last year compared to this season.

Venable lost to James Monroe’s Lucy Castles in the Conference 28 individual singles tournament each of the last two years. Natalie said their match was much closer this season.

“This year all the games were even,” Natalie said. “It was a much different outcome. She’s really picked up her game, even just from junior year to senior year to the point where she can end points on her terms more against even the top girls. It’s easy to do that with the players that aren’t quite up at that level, but she was able to be in control of the points against the top players this year.”

Natalie said Venable has improved many different aspects of her game over the last four years.

“She’s always been a very even player, where she doesn’t go crazy. She’s always been limited mistakes,” Natalie said. “And each year has gotten better and through this year while limiting her mistakes she now goes for shots. She has more power. She has more touch, finesse shots.”

Venable said she has learned how to use strategy more and that has helped her a lot as well.

She started playing at an early age, but Venable said she didn’t play the sport seriously until she was in seventh grade.

One person she could always look to for advice was her mother, Lisa, who played high school tennis for Warren County and also played in many United States Tennis Association tournaments growing up.

“She’s been a good influence on my tennis a really good one too, I think,” Kaylee Venable said. “Who knows if I would have even had the opportunity to play if it wasn’t for her. She definitely taught me a lot of what I know.”

Lisa Venable is also the Skyline girls tennis assistant coach. Kaylee Venable said that it’s been nice to have her mom coaching her and helping her through matches during her high school career.

“We obviously clashed heads sometimes, but it was nice having her as a coach,” Kaylee Venable said. “She clams me down. When I was upset she helped calm me down, which really helped me. Because tennis is a mental game. And if you can stay level headed then you’re already one step ahead.”

Venable said she loved playing on the team this season. The Hawks went 7-11, and one of their biggest victories came against their biggest rival.

Skyline knocked off Warren County, 7-2, for their first win over the Wildcats in several years.

“That was nice and we were all happy about that,”  Venable said. “We like Warren County because we grew up with them and they’re our friends and it will always be that way. But there obviously is a really big rivalry between us.”

Venable said she is going to attend James Madison University in the fall, and she wants to play tennis on the club team her freshman year. She said after that she may look into the possibility of playing for JMU’s women’s team.

While Venable has had a strong career at Skyline on the tennis courts, she said it’s not the games played on the court that she’ll remember the most.

“I think I’m going to remember the people the most,” Venable said. “I’ll always be able to play tennis. It’s not like that’s ending. But watching everyone kind of go their separate ways and it’s like as a team I’m going to miss everyone. And I’m just going to hold onto those memories — and they have shaped me.”