Hampton Roads Academy tennis coach Marvin Hedgepeth will tell you that Navigators senior Maureen Slattery has already established herself as one of the best players ever to come from the Peninsula.
Hedgepeth, formerly the coach at Menchville High for nearly three decades, went as far as comparing Slattery to former professional Leigh-Anne Thompson of Newport News, once ranked 26th in the world.
As the current number one-ranked player in the U.S. Tennis Association’s Mid-Atlantic section, which includes Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C. and parts of West Virginia, the numbers speak for themselves.
But Slattery, who began her high-school career at Warwick High where she was the Group AAA singles’ runner-up her freshman year before transferring to HRA where she has never lost a singles match in three seasons, will tell you she isn’t done writing her legacy just yet.
She recently made her college choice to play for the University of Denver, a Division I program, after weighing offers from a laundry list of schools including Brown, the University of Pennsylvania, Virginia Tech, the College of Charleston , Boston University and Williams College, to name only a few.
So what’s left?
“It’s a major goal of mine for my senior year to get back to the (VISAA) state championship and win it again,” said Slattery, who was a member of HRA’s 2010 state championship team as a sophomore. “We came so close last year, losing in the state final, that it’s definitely left a hunger.
“It’s definitely something we can do; we’re talented enough, and if we really put our minds to it, I have no doubt we can do it.”
Slattery and Co. will take their first step towards that goal on Friday when the Tidewater Conference tournament kicks off at Huntington Park in Newport News. The Navigators (13-1) enter as the No. 2 seed behind unbeaten Cape Henry, but enter the postseason as the top-ranked program in the Division II state poll.
If there were a state singles’ tournament in addition to the team play, Slattery would probably have plenty more accolades to add to her already lengthy resume. She’s rarely been tested in any singles’ match since joining HRA as a sophomore, even at the state level.
If you need specific examples of her dominance, Slattery defeated last year’s Group AA state singles’ champion Wiktoria Plawska, previously of York High and now a teammate of Slattery’s at HRA, in straight sets during the summer circuit this past June. In 2008, she beat Georgia’s Taylor Townsend, this year’s Australian Open Juniors Champion, in an amateur tournament in Florida.
At maybe a hair taller than five feet, her powerful ground strokes and ability to stretch the court can be deceptive.
“She’s tenacious, hits the ball flat and through the air like a laser,” Hedgepeth said. “She’s quick, she’s versatile, she’s comfortable approaching the net and hits exceptional ground strokes. There really aren’t many flaws to her game other than her size, which is clearly out of her control.”
To many who have followed Slattery’s career over the years, including Hedgepeth, it seems she’s been around forever.
As eager as she is for a shot at one more state title and then to move on to the next level, Slattery says she isn’t looking forward to the good-byes.
“It’s strange thinking this is my last regular-season home match,” Slattery said following a vintage 6-0, 6-0 win over Norfolk Academy’s Emily Martin last week on HRA’s Senior Day. “I’ve been on these courts for so long and made so many great friends. I’m definitely excited to move on, but I’m also going to miss my time here. It’s been all I can ask for.”
Slattery is already planning out her legacy for the next level.
She says she’s not 100 percent sure what she wants to study – maybe political science – but is pretty sure she wants to be a nurse.
“I also want to become the first All-American from [the University of Denver],” Slattery added. “They’ve never had one in their program.
“So that’s something to aim for.”