Act like you've been there before. To most athletes, it's a saying that is designed to keep behavior on the field of play at a respectful level. For Cherry Creek's Kalyssa Hall, it's a responsibility that she carries with her as she heads into the Class 5A tennis regionals which begin this week.
Hall is two-time defending state tennis champion. She's a model student and a self-admitted intense competitor on the court. And she knows that through it all, she serves as an example to not only her teammates, but to all the tennis players in the state of Colorado.
"After I won in my freshman year, people knew who I was and they were more intimidated to play me," Hall said. "It's kind of like a spotlight. People are watching me a lot closer than other people so I have to maintain my attitude on the court and my positivity and team spirit a lot more."
This is Hall's first year competing at the 5A level after winning her two state titles at Cheyenne Mountain. She moved to Denver and transferred to Cherry Creek last summer.
The change in classification isn't as much of a factor as some would believe and she has been nothing but a model student and athlete for the Bruins.
"She's never satisfied and she always wants to get better," Cherry Creek coach Christin Jacob said. "She works so hard. She works with us at practice, she's hitting on her own outside of practice and she's working on her condition constantly. It's a pretty unreal thing to see."
There is little doubt in the minds of her coaches and her teammates that she can have a long and successful career on the tennis court, but one of Hall's best qualities is her ability to see beyond the white lines.
Since the age of 11, she has had her sights set on attending medical school and becoming an orthopedic surgeon. The academic workload that Hall has faced is certainly the foundation for her life ambitions, but her work on the tennis court is what has helped her learn the discipline that she will need in order to excel in that aspect of her life.
"Tennis has done so much for me in terms of developing myself as a person," she said. "It gives me a sense of responsibility that I wouldn't have otherwise. Instead of having to manage just my grades and just hang out with friends in my free time for the last 10 years, I've had to get all my homework done after three hours of tennis, work out and get up the next morning and go to school and do the same thing all over again."
From an outside perspective, she seems more than capable of bearing the load that is required of her on a daily basis.
"She has the same attitude in class as she does on the court," Jacob said. "She works super hard and she's been great."
But for the next few weeks, her focus will be directed on the postseason and trying to come away with a third individual state championship. She has gone into the last two state tournaments with plenty of confidence and after successfully defending her title once already, is anxious to do it once more.
"My first two years were pretty solid," she said. "I had a lot of confidence going into those two (state) tournaments. I feel good with my game right, I'm training a lot more than I used to and I'm playing better than I've ever played before."
Even so, she's not letting herself get comfortable with her play. The last thing she wants to do is to come off as overly confident heading into state. It's time to act like she's been there before.