Patricia Kirkland does things her way. There are no shortcuts.
It's been that way the last four years for the Ashley Hall senior, barely missing a state championship as a freshman, then leading her team to three straight SCISA state tennis titles.
The All-Lowcountry player of the year sent an email on Tuesday, saying "I have made my decision."
On Friday, she announced, "I'm going to Washington and Lee."
Kirkland's choice of colleges had been up in the air since the fall. She debated between tennis and academics, but she didn't want to give up tennis. In the end, both tennis and academics won. She expects to major in math, with a pre-med track.
"Washington and Lee is a really accommodating place for a student-athlete," she said.
"Tennis was a crucial factor in my decision. It came down to tennis and how they run (the programs) in Divisions I and III. I needed a place where academics are important. The coach (at W&L) might let you out of practice early if you have a test the next day or if you have a lab after practice. A lot of days they have practice at two different times."
Washington and Lee is an NCAA Division III university located in Lexington, Va. Its women's tennis team is currently ranked No. 9 in Division III where there are no athletic scholarships. Former Porter-Gaud standout Emily Applegate won the Division III national singles championship in 2006 while playing for W&L.
Kirkland said she is receiving an academic scholarship. She chose W&L over Division I Wofford.
"I felt comfortable with the coaches from the first visit. I could see myself there for the next four years," said the 5-3 17-year-old, who plays with the power of a much larger player but with the smarts and savvy of a veteran coach. "I think Division III is better suited for me and my personality."
Meghan Blevins, who had announced her decision earlier, signed a national letter of intent this past week to play tennis for Oklahoma State, enabling the Cowgirls from Stillwater to capture the No. 4 rating nationally in 2011 recruiting by tennisrecruiting.net. Blevins, who helped Wando win a state title as a freshman before switching to online schooling, was listed as the 20th-best player in this year's class.
Blevins recently advanced to the quarterfinals of the USTA spring nationals in singles and took third in doubles with fellow Oklahoma State signee Mary Jeremiah.
"She will make an immediate impact on our program with her aggressive play and competitive nature," Oklahoma State coach Chris Young said. "Meghan has been well-coached and will be someone our fans will enjoy watching over the next few years."
Cooper, Elligets win
Porter-Gaud junior Mi'Kola Cooper fulfilled one of her ambitions last Wednesday in Sumter by winning the SCISA Open girls singles championship with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Kate Christensen of Hilton Head Prep. Cooper's toughest win came in the semifinals where she defeated fellow All-Lowcountry performer Sarah McDonald of Colleton Prep in a third-set match tiebreaker.
Pinewood Prep's Elliget brothers, senior J.T. and eighth-grader Adam, captured a second straight SCISA Open boys doubles crown, scoring a 6-2, 6-4 win over the Wilson Hall team of Michael Brown and Logan Weiland in the final.
It was an all-Pinewood Prep battle in mixed doubles with Mollie Polk and Davis Craig taking a 7-5, 6-4 win over Sarah Edwards and Jacob Cumbie.
Porter-Gaud's Thomas Spratt and Pinewood Prep's Joel Roberts lost in the boys singles semifinals to Aaron Cotton and eventual champion Andrew Schafer, both of Hilton Head Prep.
3-way tie possible
Talk about all of the eggs being in one basket. That's SCISA Class AAA's Region III, which arguably has the top three boys teams in SCISA tennis in current leader Porter-Gaud, defending state champion Hilton Head Prep and Pinewood Prep.
The state playoffs are a week away, but Region III is the decisive place to be. It all comes down to a Tuesday meeting in Summerville between coach Tom Higgins' Porter-Gaud outfit and Bryant McKee's Pinewood Prep team.
"If we win, we'll be the No. 1 seed (in the playoffs). If we lose, it'll be a three-way tie," said Higgins, sizing up the situation.
"I don't have any idea what will happen if there's a three-way tie."
Porter-Gaud has lost only to Hilton Head Prep, while Pinewood Prep and Hilton Head Prep split their two matches and both have lost once to the Cyclones.
The three teams have been the only participants in the last five state finals. Porter-Gaud and Hilton Head Prep have won two titles each and Pinewood Prep one in those five years.
All three teams should receive first-round byes in next week's state playoffs, and the three should avoid any head-to-head meetings before the state semifinals. An important incentive is that the higher seed serves as host at least in the early rounds. SCISA had planned to hold the state final in Sumter, but that appears to be up in the air due to the obvious domination of the three Lowcountry teams.
Battle goes on
Another "Battle of James Island" is shaping up for May 7 at the Country Club of Charleston and the Maybank and Charleston tennis centers. Men's and women's, and mixed doubles will be held at all three sites from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., followed by a covered dish social at the Country Club. Contact Country Club tennis director Lee Brockman (email@example.com).