Benton High School product Mandy Baker may not have been playing tennis very long – she joined the tennis team her junior year – but she has quickly developed enough game to play for the Rend Lake College Lady Warriors in the fall.
Baker signed a letter of intent Tuesday evening to play for RLC.
“Mandy has worked hard and isn’t ready to give it up yet,” said Anita Diefenbach, Head Tennis Coach at Benton Consolidated High School.
According to Diefenbach, Baker mainly played number five and six singles in high school, although she did compete in the number two slot on occasion. She also played upper-level doubles.
“She’s got a wicked cross-court backhand,” said Diefenbach. “She moves really well and she picked up the game really quickly. She’s got a lot to learn, but she’ll do it and she will work hard.”
“Mandy’s movement is good. Her strokes are good, and she’s very coachable,” said Lady Warrior Head Coach Diane Metzger. “I watched her play some high school matches, and she won several of them through her consistency.”
Metzger said Baker will compete in challenge matches with the other members of the RLC team to determine playing order. She will join returning sophomores Shanna Beasley (Salem), Kesara Becker (Salem), Whitney Luttrell (Xenia) and Lindsay Mateer (Mt. Vernon), plus incoming freshmen Audrey Gillespie (Mt. Vernon) and Jessica Ray (Fairfield). Metzger said she will try to recruit one more player to help fill out the team.
“I’m excited to play,” said Baker. “I came here to get a better feel for college and to try to move on to a university.” She said she plans to work on her stamina and continue to practice during the summer, which is convenient for her because she lives near the tennis courts in Benton.
Baker, 17, said she plans to major in biological sciences. She is the daughter of Mike and Rhetta Baker of Benton. Her sister, Jessica, will be a freshman at Benton Consolidated High School this year and will be a tennis player to watch, Diefenbach said.
Incidentally, Diefenbach is a former Lady Warrior netter herself, who joined the squad on a scholarship as a non-traditional student in 1999.
For a high-resolution version of the above photo, click here.