Athletes of the Year_Kat Lyman.JPG

Oceanside Collegiate's Kat Lyman is the girls tennis All-Lowcountry player of the year. Lauren Petracca/Staff

Kat Lyman said she had never even considered the possibility of being named The Post and Courier's All-Lowcountry Player of the Year for girls tennis.

"I have known the persons every year who were named player of the year, but I didn't even think about it," said 17-year-old Oceanside Collegiate Academy senior, who was a teammate of 2015 player of the year Lily Conant's at Wando.

Surprise!

Lyman skipped high school tennis in 2016 and 2017 while training for junior tennis, but returned to high school competition just in time to play for an outstanding Oceanside team that advanced all the way to last month's Class AA state final. She went undefeated during the 2018 season while winning player of the year honors.

"I am honored. It's really cool to win it for my school. I worked hard all year. I am just real glad I played this year. It was so much fun. I would have regretted not playing," she said.

Lyman is joined on the All-Lowcountry team by seniors Eleanor Campbell of Bishop England, Rebecca Spratt of Ashley Hall, Abby Sinclaire of Wando and Emma Smith of Oceanside; and sophomores Lily Woods of Bishop England and Abby Cotuna of Berkeley. Smith, Woods and Cotuna are repeaters from 2017.

Mary Gastley, who guided Ashley Hall to the SCISA Class AAA state title, and Megan Hinton, who directed Wando to the SCHSL Class AAAAA final, are the coaches of the year.

While she was missing from high school tennis, Lyman continued to improve her game while training with Jeff Wilson at MWTennis Academy. Two years ago, she won the girls 16 singles title in the Southern Closed Clay Courts in Little Rock, Ark.

"That was my biggest title. I had been favored to win Belton that year, but I lost in the final. But then I won Southern ... I learned a lot from Belton. I won Belton singles last year and doubles twice," she said.

Lyman felt fortunate as a senior to be able to attend OCA where athletics play a pivotal role.

"I was able to play high school tennis and still train with my coach, Jeff Wilson," she said.

"I took two years to get really focused on aspects of my tennis game, and this year I decided I wanted to play (high school tennis) again. It's my last year, and I wanted to experience the aspect of team atmosphere before I got to college," she said.

Phil Whitesell, Lyman's coach at OCA, said: "It was great being able to coach a player of Kat's caliber. I'm hoping the best for her while playing for the Naval Academy."

Because of tennis, Lyman is headed to the U.S. Naval Academy to join Navy's women's tennis team and to study in the field of cyber operations security. She sees all of that as her future, all because of tennis.

"I was recruited by mostly Southern schools ... South Carolina, Tennessee, Tulane and Furman. But I visited campus there (at Navy) and I could see myself there," she said. "I was looking for something that would set me up afterwards in my career, and that was something the Naval Academy would do."

After four years at Annapolis, she will have a five-year Navy commitment.

Lyman started tennis when she was about eight years old while her family was living in New Hampshire.

"That was indoors, but I didn't really get into it (tennis) until I moved here when I was 12 years old in sixth grade," she said. "I played all different sports before that back in New Hampshire ... soccer, basketball, track. I played them all up until I moved here.

"I kind of had a choice whether to play soccer that my dad (Mark Lyman) played in college. Tennis was different. I was able to control everything," added Lyman, whose mother Elizabeth is a 4.5 league tennis player.

Lyman has no plans to try pro tennis. She just wants to focus on her career.

All-Lowcountry Girls Tennis

Kat Lyman

Senior, Oceanside Collegiate

Eleanor Campbell

Senior, Bishop England

Rebecca Spratt

Senior, Ashley Hall

Abby Sinclaire

Senior, Wando

Emma Smith

Senior, Oceanside Collegiate

Lily Woods

Sophomore, Bishop England

Abby Cotuna

Sophomore, Berkeley

Coaches of the year: Mary Gastley, Ashley Hall (SCISA); Megan Hinton, Wando (SCHSL)

Honorable Mention

Ashley Hall: Kayla Kirkland, Lorna Milani, Ella Gray Settle, Marissa Dye, Jane Goldstein, Adelaide Harper; Wando: Kelsey Sinclaire, Lily Zimmermann, Grace McKellar, Ellie Zimmermann, Emma Chadwick, Adelia Phillips; Bishop England: Jenna Santa Lucia, McKenzie Penton, Izzy Woods, Crista Vroman, Lauren Ferrara; Oceanside Collegiate: Jill Morse, Emily Loring, Caroline Lively, Elise Smith, Gracen Harris; Summerville: Paige Reynolds, Sullivan Long, Lizzie Naval, Hannah McKee; Philip Simmons: Sydney Mimms, Maddy Bolig, Olivia DeMarco, Ansley Cohen; Porter-Gaud: Eliza Dieck, Piper Brown, McKenzie Davis, Ananya Chag; Academic Magnet: Mina Schaafsma, Aileen Shi, Caroline Young; Ashley Ridge: Arianna Brim, Katelyn Schmedeke, Caroline Jacky; Fort Dorchester: Serene Cheung, Andrea Bolivar, Temperance Sanders; James Island: Paige Godwin, Lexi Strange, Kaya McDonough; Pinewood Prep: Jessica Osborne, Ellie Rogers, Abbey Martichenko; Stratford: Celeste Class-Rodriguez, Aubrey Eudy, Elizabeth Sivertsen; Berkeley: Shelby McCutchen, Logan Ponce; Colleton Prep: Rianna Bailey, Meredith Ware; Palmetto Christian: Emily Shaw, Gabi Noce; West Ashley: Madison Clayton, Katie Lowe; Cane Bay: Madison Miller; Goose Creek: Sofia Bermego; Colleton County: E.K. Bell.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his latest columns on the Grand Slams at ubitennis.net/author/james-beck