Four-year letterman. Team captain. District runner-up.

Kimberly Lopez almost did it all in her spectacular career on the Lufkin tennis team. She appeared to be on the way to a grand finale as she steamrolled most of her competition throughout her senior season and appeared to be well on her way to her first individual district title.

Then almost as quickly as it began, it was all over.

There have been plenty of “what ifs” for Lopez since that senior season got cut short.

Championship or not, there was no doubt of the caliber of player she became.

“This year was just different,” Lopez said. “I’d been ranked No. 1 all season and I thought I was going to win district. This is what I’d been looking forward to since I entered high school. Now it kind of feels like all that hard work was for nothing.”

When the season was called off, Lopez admits a feeling of helplessness. She wrote a letter to the head of the organization for high school tennis but said she never got a response.

Her hopes for that district title ended while she was at home instead of competing on the court.

“I just thought there was some way we could finish a tennis season, especially since that was the first sport they let start back up,” Lopez said. “I wanted to have that chance, but I eventually had to let it go. There aren’t any words that can describe how I feel about it.”

While she admits the frustration will linger for awhile, Lopez has plenty to be proud of in her career.

She joined the program as a freshman and didn’t wait long to prove her worth on the team. As a junior, she rolled through the competition at the district tournament, not losing a set before the championship match.

Although she came up on the short end in that title match, the best seemed like it was yet to come.

She put in the extra work on the tennis court before starting the year stronger than ever. While competing in tournaments in Longview, Tyler, Conroe and Nacogdoches, she was always one of the top forces on the team.

“I really enjoyed this year,” Lopez said. “There were so many good memories and fun times with my teammates. With Coach (David) Guzman, we got to play in more matches. It was a lot of fun.”

Lopez started playing tennis while in middle school and carried it on into the next several years both at and away from school.

She said the sport provides a true barometer of where she stands at an individual level.

“When things go wrong, you can’t turn to someone else on the court with you,” Lopez said. “Venus Williams said you win or lose a match mentally before you even go out on the court. It’s a sport you have to be mentally strong at if you’re going to be successful.”

From the tennis court to the classroom, the game has paid off Lopez. She recently received a scholarship that was aided by a paper on what tennis has meant in her life.

“Tennis is a big part of who I am,” Lopez said. “It’s meant so much to me. The way this ended wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m still going to play.”

Lopez will continue to play in different UTSA (United States Tennis Association) events.

Regardless of what tennis court she is on, she’ll be ready for the next challenge.

“Senior year got here so fast that I really couldn’t believe it,” Lopez said.

“I’ve been thinking the last few months that this can’t really be ending like this. It’s just something you have to deal with. I don’t have the end of my senior year, but I still have the sport. I’ll make the most of it.”

Josh Havard’s email address is josh.havard@lufkindailynews.com.

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