Paonia 1S player Annavah Kropp returns a shot to Courtney Chism on April 17. Kropp, who defeated Chism in a tiebreaker, grew up in a family where everyone plays tennis.
Annavah Kropp claimed one of two team wins against Montrose last Monday, defeating Courtney Chism in a tiebreaker.
"She's just a really good player," said Kropp of Chism.
The two met one other time, last year at Delta, recalled Kropp. It was a really windy day and they went into a tiebreaker that day, too.
On Monday, Chism won the first set, 6-4, and the match was tied at 5-5 in the second set when Kropp pulled ahead for a 7-5 win.
Kropp said she'd approach net and Chism would respond with a surprise shot. "I caught an occasional few," she said, "but she was really good on passing shots."
Chism also had a nice ground stroke with a top spin, said Kropp.
The winning point came on a bad serve by Chism.
Throughout the match, Kropp's family, her parents, cousins, siblings, uncle and grandparents, cheered her on.
For the Kropps, tennis is a family activity. "Everyone plays tennis," said Kropp, whose first memories of the game were when she was about age 10, "messing around with my dad and my family." Grandfather Jim has years of coaching experience, and taught her a lot, she said.
Kropp also learned from former Paonia coach Becky Swanbom. "She helped a lot through my development," said Kropp. When Swanbom left two years ago, the future of the team was uncertain. Kyle Banks stepped in as head coach, "And I'm really glad. He came in and filled her spot really well," she said. He saved the program from shutting down, and that's meant a lot to the team.
Kropp gets plenty of court time outside of the season. She and Tyler Rapke, who played at two singles until an injury forced her to end her season, partnered to play doubles at the Taco Bell Western Slope open last July in Grand Junction. She also paired with dad Kris in the father-daughter division.
She and Rapke competed at the B1 tournament at Montrose at both doubles and singles. "We did really well in both sections," said Kropp, who won the singles division. At Grand Junction they didn't place very high, "But that was our first time together" at doubles.
It's that kind of experience that gives Kropp the ability to give even the toughest of opponents a good game, change up serves, know when to flush on her approach, and to win.
With less than three weeks until the 4A regional tournament, Kropp said she's focusing on ground strokes and keeping fit. The team runs at every practice, and that gives her the stamina to go a full three sets if necessary. "I don't think I'd last too long otherwise," she laughed.
She's also working on serves, "because I miss a lot of my first serves."
Kropp has a strong backhand, which she relies on heavily, but is still a little weak on forehand strokes after undergoing wrist surgery last October to repair tendon damage. She sat out her junior volleyball season and recovered in time to play basketball.
"The wrist surgery helped a lot, but it just still has its moments of weakness," she said. "It's doing better."
Paonia had a packed schedule last week, going 0-7 against Cortez at Delta on Friday.
On Saturday, Paonia lost 2-5 to Roaring Fork, with Kropp and four doubles Deanna and Kimmy Gillenwater claiming wins. At Glenwood Springs, Kropp lost 1-6, 4-6 to Zaria Zilm. Zilm is tough, said Kropp, and they've split wins at their last two matches. Another lifelong player, Zilm is the daughter of Phyllis Zilm, who is ranked in National Senior Women's Tennis.
Paonia will host its final matches of the season, against Delta, this Thursday at 4 p.m. The 4A regional tournament will be held next Friday and Saturday, May 4 and 5, in Grand Junction.