Stuart Reece spent three days overseeing 140 boys and girls playing 275 tennis matches on 18 courts at two locations in Lee’s Summit. Last year, Reece and three other high-school tennis coaches saw a need for a summer league, and the numbers are proving them right.
Reece is the tennis coach at Lee’s Summit North, which played host this week to the Summit Slam, the third of four tournaments in the KC Summer Slam Series. With enough entries to keep all nine courts at North and Lee’s Summit West busy from Monday through Wednesday, Reece could see first-hand how much the series has grown in its second season.
“It’s just exploded,” Reece said. “This year’s Summit Slam was the biggest one that we’ve had so far.”
Reece and tennis coaches from Blue Springs South, Liberty North and North Kansas City created the KC Summer Slam Series last year to promote more competitive tennis for area players during the off-season. Players can compete in 11 divisions of boys and girls singles ranging from varsity to novice along with a mixed doubles division. There is no minimum age requirement, and boys and girls who have never played for a school team can also take part.
All players also earn individual and team points depending on where they place in their division, with team and individual champions crowned after the final tournament.
“Everybody can contribute,” Reece said. “You earn points for your school just by entering. If we can get kids in novice girls singles or varsity boys doubles, they all contribute to our school.”
Reece said the KC Summer Slam Series is designed for the high-school player looking for something more affordable and informal than junior club leagues or USTA events. It’s also perfect way for younger players to get their first taste of tournament competition.
“What we saw a need for was for kids that maybe are newer to tennis or maybe not tennis-only kids,” Reece said. “A USTA event may not quite be a fit for them, and they can come here and gain extremely valuable experience.”
That was part of the appeal for Joe Hammerly, a junior-to-be at North who played varsity for the Broncos last spring. Hammerly, who took third place in boys varsity doubles, likes the friendly competition and the opportunity to stay sharp over the summer.
“During the summer these tournaments really help you prepare for the next season,” Hammerly said. “They’re really good practice to see potentially where you’re going to be next season and what you need to improve on.”
Next season is just around the corner for Kourtney Glenn and Lindsey Allin, who will play this fall for Lee’s Summit. Glenn and Allin teamed up to win girls varsity doubles, beating fellow Tigers Lillie Bock and Marissa Kramer 8-1 in the championship match.
“It helps us get season-ready,” Glenn said. “It kind of gives you a heads up to where your competition is going to be during the season.”
Emily Gerber of North reached the girls varsity final, where she lost to Allison Brown of Blue Springs 8-1. Local champions included Nicklas Eichenberger of Lee’s Summit West in junior varsity boys singles, Kelly Connolly of North in novice girls singles, and Morgan McGurk and Riley Young of North, in JV/novice girls doubles.
All of them earned points in the team competition, which is currently led by Blue Springs South. North is in second, and Reece expects the Broncos to make a run at the Jaguars at the final event, which takes place July 12-13 at Oak Park.
“We won the first team title in KC Summer Slam history so we’re trying to defend that,” Reece said. “Blue Springs South hosted the first tournament and had a good turnout so we’re trying to play catch-up.”