SPRINGFIELD — Liberty senior Colby Kelley had quite the reception as she entered her leadership class on Monday, Oct. 28.
“Everyone started clapping so that was fun,” Kelley said. “It was really cool. I was happy to see everyone else was as happy as me.”
What was the excitement about? Kelley etched her name in the Blue Jays tennis record books at the Class 2 state tournament on Saturday, Oct. 26, indoors at the Cooper Tennis Complex.
Kelley became the first Liberty girls tennis player to achieve an individual state championship with a victory (6-4, 6-1) over Kathryn Ferguson of Lafayette (Wildwood).
“It was kind of surreal because this has been a goal of mine since about the eighth grade,” Kelley said. “I had always known that the state competition was full of great players and it didn’t hit me until the other day that I was one of them, so it was pretty great.”
Blue Jays coach Pam Koch admitted emotions were high once Kelley claimed victory.
“I actually was crying, and I’m not a crier, just because it was so amazing and so exciting,” Koch said. “She’s an awesome and deserving player. She is very athletic and has always put in the work. She would do whatever was asked of her.”
In her first state semifinal match, Kelley, a University of Nebraska-Omaha commit, beat freshman Abby Gaines of St. Joseph’s Academy 5-7, 6-3 (10-7).
The Liberty veteran reached the state quarterfinals last season, her previous best finish.
“She’s always been a great player and one of the top players, but to win at that level you almost have to be perfect,” Koch said. “Every year she’s improved a little bit to get to this point. And it was just awesome.”
Kelley enjoyed the state win in front of family and friends.
“I was happy I was able to share that excitement with all of them,” Kelley said. I know they were super pumped to be there so that was special. I was glad that I was able to do that for our team and our coaches because they deserve recognition.”