Redheaded newcomers sparking Mavs in tennis
Kaylee Davis needed a change of scenery. Shannen McNamara needed a new place to play.
Together, the Colorado Mesa University sophomore redheads helped lead the Mavericks back to the NCAA Division II national championships for the second consecutive season.
Colorado Mesa (19-9) plays fifth-ranked Hawaii Pacific (17-5) in the first round of the national tournament at 9 a.m. (MDT) Wednesday at Top Gun Tennis Academy in Louisville, Ky.
“Kaylee and Shannen have played a lot of tough junior tennis tournaments, so they’ve played a lot of good players,” CMU coach Dan MacDonald said. “They both played one year of college before coming here. I thought our team, when we got Kaylee and Shannen, was pretty comparable to last year’s team.”
Davis, who is from Abilene, Texas, played one year for junior college national champion Tyler (Texas) Junior College.
“I wanted to come somewhere awesome,” Davis said. “I wanted go somewhere else. I wanted to come to Colorado.”
Davis decided to come to Mesa after talking to MacDonald and doing some research online.
McNamara was looking for another school after the Augustana (Ill.) College coach who recruited her resigned.
“He was one of the main reasons I went to that school,” the Battle Mountain High School graduate said. “I knew about Mesa and I’ve known Dan for a while. It was a perfect fit.”
McNamara lived in Grand Junction for four months in the fall during her sophomore year in high school and trained with MacDonald at a tennis facility.
Davis and McNamara play No. 2 doubles behind twin sisters Kaitlan and Kelleen Sera. Davis and McNamara are 15-8 this season. The Seras are 20-6.
“We’ve got ginger power at the two spot,” Davis said with a laugh. “It can be an explosion. It’s either really go in our favor or we’re going to be down 6-3 and fight our way out of it.“In our regional match, we were down 3-0, 6-3 and they had a match point. We came back and pulled it out.”
Davis and McNamara say it’s better being doubles partners than playing against another redhead, who are typically known for their fiery personalities.
“It’s better than playing against another redhead,” Davis said. “Usually they don’t coexist very well, but me and Shannen, we make it work. We’re doing OK.”
MacDonald says their games mesh well.
“Kaylee and Shannen are a nice complement to each other,” MacDonald said. “Shannen is more of a baseline banger. Kaylee’s really aggressive at the net, so they complement each other. That offsets one that likes the net and one that likes the baseline.”
The No. 3 doubles team of junior Skyler Nelson and freshman Kristyn Wykert (15-4) have played consistently.
“Our three doubles have been solid all year,” MacDonald said. “We call them our twin towers. They’re both tall, athletic girls. That’s been the goal with them all year, get to the net.”
The Mavericks will need to win the doubles matches to have a chance of upsetting Hawaii Pacific.
“We are definitely the underdog,” MacDonald said. “There are only 16 teams left, so there are no easy teams left. They’ve all made it through regionals. You’re going to draw somebody that’s ranked.”
All but one player in the Sea Warriors’ regular lineup is an international player, and none of the Americans are from Hawaii.
“Tennis is an international sport,” MacDonald said. “That’s where it’s gone. I don’t know of any foreign countries with college athletics, so all those international kids are looking to get to the United States somehow.”