Amazing Grace: Sophomore climbs Eastern’s ranks


Jason Howell

Sophomore Grace Summers defeated Belmont’s Suzanna Stapler 6-1 and 6-0 on April 1 at the Darling Courts.

Kaitlin Cordes, Staff Reporter

Her match days begin with a macaroni and cheese breakfast and music blasting. Sometimes, she tinkers with a piece or two in her Star Wars themed puzzle in order to gain focus for her match.

Sophomore tennis player Grace Summers said she likes to wake up early (around seven) on match days because she hates sleeping in when there is a match to be played.

Another ritual she sticks to is avoiding homework before matches. Summers said she likes to put all of her focus into the match and leave the homework for later.

All of these elements and rituals put her in the right frame of mind for the day’s competition, she said.

Summers said she puts everything she has into matches and plays them one match at a time.

“I lay it all out on the court,” Summers said. “I’m not one of those girls who goes out and smashes the ball. I’m more of a ‘hit that spot’ and ‘keep it in play’ kind of player.”

In this season alone, the sophomore has earned two consecutive Ohio Valley Conference Athlete of the Week honors and has made Eastern’s history by becoming the second most victorious Panther at the No. 3 spot in singles.

Summers’ all-time singles record currently sits at 22-4, putting her just below record holder Madina Mambetova, who accumulated 24 victories in her 2004-2007 career at Eastern. The two remaining regular season matches could tie the two, however.

Summers’ successful season did not start out mirroring her recent winning ways.

She added her fourth loss in singles in the first match of the spring season with a close three-set loss to the Illinois’ Jerricka Boone. Boone won by a narrow 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 1-0 (10-7) margin.

Summers said the loss was just the motivation she needed to avoid future three-set losses.

“The loss made me want to win that much more,” Summers said. “It forced me to work hard and fight more and made me not want to lose like that again.”

Senior Hannah Kimbrough has teamed up with Summers this season for doubles play.

Together, the duo has hashed out 12 wins and have suffered just four losses. Half of those wins are conference victories.

Kimbrough said that their opposite styles of play make for the perfect pairing.

“I would say that I’m really intense and serious…and Grace is more laid back and likes to have fun,” Kimbrough said. “(It) makes for a perfect partnership because we really balance each other out.”

Kimbrough also said she felt that the fact that she and Summers are both from Tennessee created a bond between the two.

Summers and Kimbrough are close friends off the court, said Kimbrough. Their friendship allows the duo to have open communication on the court.

Kimbrough said that being best friends works to their advantage when they are under high pressure situations during matches.

“She always reminds me to have fun when I get down on myself, and she always cracks jokes to calm my nerves,” said Kimbrough.

Summers labels her style of play as one of the best parts of her gameplay. She also said she feels that her serve is one of the best aspects of her game as well.

Summers said head coach Emily Wang has helped her and Kimbrough improve their formations. Former head coach John Blackburn also worked with the two on formations during Summers’ freshman year, but Wang has emphasized the importance of accurate formations.

Summers’ tennis career began when she was eight years old. She said that she also participated in soccer, basketball and softball before entering the tennis world.

She credits much of her tennis knowledge and career to her former coach.

“Coach Bryan worked with me for eight years before he moved to Texas,” Summers said. “He taught me most of what I know, and I credit him with my career.”

Summers said she attributes her decision to play for Eastern to former coach John Blackburn, the tennis team and her desired kinesiology and sports studies major.

Summers said she wants to work as a tennis coach; she also plans get her pilot’s license and become a helicopter pilot after she graduates.


Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]