By John Bassetti
Ray Yost’s comments are a testament to Kim Ezzo’s career.
Yost, the Mercyhurst College women’s tennis coach, was effusive in describing his senior player who is 19-3 this season.
“She’s probably the best No. 1 I’ve had and I’ve been coaching for 18 years,” the Lakers coach said of his standout player, who was recently named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division athlete of the week following her performance for the period ending April 4. “She’s just, mentally, a very strong girl,”
In the Lakers’ 4-5 loss to Slippery Rock on April 13, Ezzo won to move to 19-3 in singles and 17-3 in doubles with Caroline Bristol.
In the most recent rankings, Ezzo was seeded in the top 10 in the Atlantic Region in singles.
In Mercyhurst’s 7-2 win over Indiana University of Pennsylvania on March 30, Ezzo knocked off Tabtip Louhabanjong, 6-2, 6-0, to avenge an earlier defeat at the hands of Louhabanjong at the PSAC individual championships at Shippensburg, Pa. in the fall.
Yost recalled the October match.
“Kim was winning, 3-1, when her racket broke,” he said. “She switched rackets, but went downhill and lost. Switching rackets isn’t a big deal, so I’m not making excuses, but, after that [match], she had revenge on her mind.”
Also against IUP on March 30, Ezzo/Bristol defeated Louhabanjong/K. Eaton, 8-4, in the No. 1 doubles match.
Louhabanjong was ranked No. 7 in the region.
The wins were Mercyhurst’s eight and ninth consecutive. The Lakers are 17-5.
Ezzo’s other singles losses were to Annabel Pieschl of California (Pa.) on April 8 and in February to Carnegie-Mellon’s Laura Chen, then the No. 5 nationally-ranked player.
There won’t be a rematch with Chen because Carnegie-Mellon is NCAA Div. III and the Div. II Lakers only meet CMU once a year.
“She’s got a lot of talent, but her strong suit is her mental game,” Yost said of Ezzo, an Ursuline High graduate whose parents are David and Lori Ezzo of Liberty.
“Everybody doesn’t have a good day,” Yost said, “but on a bad day she can muster enough to win. She’s able to bring her game up. A lot of kids get tight, but she never gets tight. If she has trouble, she’ll work her way out of it. When the going gets tough, she gets going.”
Ezzo also earned PSAC-West player of the week honors before this season.
“She could be player of the week any week,” said Yost, who added, “She’s not only having a good year, she’s having a good four years.”
Needless to say, the coach feels that, when Ezzo graduates, she’ll be tough to replace.
In arriving at that conclusion, he includes all the variables, pro and con.
“She’s not the fastest, strongest or quickest athlete I’ve had, but she plays a mentally tough game,” he said. “If she misses 3-4 shots, she’ll figure out what’s wrong and get it going. I’ll never get another player like that again.”