Toth earns county co-player of the year honor in girls tennis

In this September 2020 file photo, Lakeside’s Kait Toth returns a shot during a first-singles match. Toth has been selected the Ashtabula County Co-Player of the Year in girls tennis for the 2020 season.

In junior high, cross country and track were Kait Toth’s focus, but that changed during the summer leading into her freshman year.

Her brother, Zach invited her to play tennis on the Lakeside courts. As soon as Toth picked up her racket and walked to her side of the court, she fell in love with the game.

“The whole summer before my freshman year I trained and ending up playing first singles my freshman year,” she said.

Now a senior, Toth earned Co-County Player of the Year honors, alongside St. John’s Julianne Sheldon. At the all-county meet hosted by St. John in September, the pair played a five-set match. They both hit long volleys back and forth for nearly two hours. A powerful strike to Sheldon’s left gave Toth the 14-12 win in the deciding set.

About a month earlier, Toth finished third in the preseason all-county meet held at the same venue. Following the loss, she shifted her focus to more mental aspects of the game. Toth’s mindset allowed her to gain an advantage in a close back and forth match with Sheldon.

Toth led 8-3, but Sheldon responded with a 7-2 run to tie it at 10. Sheldon took a 12-11 lead, but a long return and the aforementioned strike down Sheldon’s left side earned Toth the coveted county title.

“[I focused on] resetting after every point,” Toth said. “Thinking, ‘OK, I either won or lost this point, but it doesn’t matter. Every new point is some different experience and just kind of separating that from the game itself.’”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, tennis teams could not meet for practice. Instead, players were expected to put in their own time over the summer to improve. Toth used this to gain unique experiences from her college friends, many of which she met through playing tennis.

“That kind of gave me an opportunity to play with a lot more of my college friends and kind of learn more based off their skill than just practicing with drills,” Toth said.

The work she put in with her college friends allowed her to gain some differerent experiences she found valuable.

“I think it really helped prepare me for playing some of the teams that are near Cleveland because a lot of them are really tough normally,” Toth said. “It kind of gave me the experience and preparation of competing against that.”

Toth’s goals heading into the season were to win the county and make it further in sectionals than she had before.

“Unfortunately, I lost in the second round,” Toth said. “But I still was proud of how I performed there.”

Aside from constantly striving to improve, Toth enjoys the environment surrounding tennis.

“I love the camaraderie and really the tennis community,” Toth said. “I’ve met so many people and so many friends, who are now very close to me, through everything.”

Toth looks forward to continuing her tennis career at either Edinboro University or the University of Findlay. Until then, she continues to put in the time and effort to improve.

“Overall, just strengthening my game and getting better, improving my strength and stamina [moving forward],” Toth said.

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