By Kevin Wilson
Kalee Haragan is still two years away from following in her sister’s footsteps with Portales High School tennis. For now, she’s making her own path.
Haragan, 12, is competing this weekend in the Grand Prix Playoff in New Braunfels, Texas, a national tournament of the United States Professional Tennis Association.
The tournament runs through Sunday at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch. Haragan will compete in the 12-and-under girls singles bracket.
Haragan is the half-sister of Kambri Eichenberger, a member of Portales’ 2001 Class 3A state champion girls tennis team. She has made strides to be like her sister, down to the trademark earring in the brim of her Adidas cap.
“She’s pretty much taught me everything I know,” Kalee said.
This weekend will pit sixth-grader Haragan against the best the USPTA has to offer, players who dealt with the same sacrifices that she did.
“I pretty much gave up my whole summer for it,” said Haragan, who competed in seven of eight preliminary tournaments in Lubbock. She said her favorite part of the summer was traveling to Lubbock every weekend for a tournament, but she didn’t like getting up at 5 a.m. to do it.
“We had to be very dedicated,” said Terri Watson, Kalee’s mother. “She had practice every day, five days a week, and then a tournament every Saturday. That’s just what you did.”
In each of the seven tournaments, she wound up finishing second to Brooke Adams of Lubbock. On Aug. 9, she entered the master’s tournament as the No. 2 seed, but came out as the top seed by beating Adams 8-3 — a feat that Haragan admitted she didn’t believe at first.
Now, Haragan travels to New Braunfels as part of a Lubbock team, coached by Randy Mattingley. Mattingley is the director of tennis at the Lubbock Country Club and coordinates for the USPTA in the Lubbock area.
“I would say she is a very good athlete and very determined as an athlete,” Mattingley said. “She has really worked, especially this summer, to raise and excel her level.”
School hasn’t stopped her from continuing to work on her game. Haragan has worked out with Portales tennis coach Bill Wahlman and some of her friends that populate the Wahlman Tennis Center after school.
A fan of Serena Williams and Andre Agassi, Kalee has chosen to model her game after the best parts of her friends and teammates. She aims for Walker Partin’s serve and Logan Erf’s self-control.
“I want (Kristen VanWettering’s) slam too,” Haragan says with a laugh, “but that’s not going to happen.”
Notes: Haragan also plays basketball for the Wolfpack of the Clovis Girls Amateur Association, which involves two practices a week. … Two Clovis High School tennis players, Jared Cole and Andrew Forrest, are also competing in the tournament.