Young tennis standout working to surpass a string of family successes

By Brian Gomez

Corona del Sol High School sophomore Lynley Wasson is not the most dominating tennis player for her age. Nor is she the most powerful server on the court. And she is certainly not very vocal when slapping return shots from the baseline.

But everything Wasson lacks in some aspects of her game she easily makes up for in others.

Having come from a family rich in tennis tradition, Wasson has history on her side. However, she has added to the gene pool a few more characteristics that may not have been as strong as in previous years: endurance and a shear desire from within.

“Usually, some of (my opponents) bounce on their feet a lot in the beginning and then they just kind of wear out in the end,” said Wasson, who competed this past week at the Junior Clay Court Championships in Virginia Beach, Va.

“I’m used to long points. Some of them have been a couple minutes. Some have been over 100 hits.”

Instead of trying to overpower her opponents, the 5-foot-3 Wasson relies heavily on her consistency. She doesn’t rush the net very often, especially since she has enough accuracy to meticulously pick her spots on the court.

“If I have to or if I get a short ball, I’ll come in, but I won’t just run in out of nowhere,” Wasson said.

“I basically just stay on the baseline. I wait for the other girl to miss.”

The strategy worked well this spring for Wasson, who accumulated a 29-2 record and marked a fourth-place finish in the Class 5A state tournament. Wasson captured the Central Region singles title and was 25-0 heading into the postseason.

“I wanted to do well, but I didn’t think about it that much,” Wasson said. “I just went out and played.”

While Wasson also had success when partnering in doubles with graduating senior Chou Phan, who is bound for Arizona State University this fall, singles was her specialty. Coming out of Aprende Middle School, she went undefeated on Corona’s freshman team and played at the top spot on the varsity level throughout the entire season for third-year head coach Carol Sandvig.

Wasson recorded straight-set wins in every match during the regular season, before stumbling at state and getting bounced in the quarterfinals by Mesa Red Mountain’s Courtney Koenigsfeld, the eventual state runner-up.

But with a No. 3 ranking in the 16-and-under division of the United States Tennis Association Southwest Junior Section, Wasson has plenty of other things to think about besides high school tennis.

“I’m just taking it one match at a time,” she said. “After a while, you get a little tired, but I just like it so much.”

By notching a second-place finish earlier this year at the Southwest Closed Championships (Tucson), Wasson qualified as one of three players to represent the region at the National Intersectional Tournament (Shreveport, La.).

She went .500 in singles play, captured a mixed doubles victory and also took home a doubles win.

Wasson is scheduled to participate this August at the Junior Hard Court Championships in San Diego. The competition likely will be similar to what she faced last week, but the elements will be completely different.

“I’m used to playing on hard court, but I like clay because it suits my game better,” Wasson said.

“With clay, it just slows everything down. I hit some looping shots with topspin. I’m consistent, so it makes the point last even longer.”

Although Wasson does not have many noticeable flaws in her game, Mike Henneberry, who has instructed the budding young talent at Ahwatukee Tennis Club since she began playing at the age of 10, sees room for improvement. He would like Wasson to become a little more vocal.

“I want her to stand up for herself,” Henneberry said. “She’s very quiet and reserved. Sometimes it’s easy for people to push her around.”

Wasson acknowledges that she could jack her tone up a few notches.

“He’s trying to make me louder, but I’m still really shy,” she said. “Some girls are really pushy on the court. They’re kind of snots.”

Wasson’s game has gradually progressed in recent years, thanks largely to the influence of her family. Her supportive parents, Tom and Melly, both play in tennis leagues at Kiwanis Recreation Center.

Wasson’s sister, Whitney, made her mark at Corona, winning back-to-back Central Region singles titles in 1994 and ’95. Her brother, Devin, was a four-year letterman and played at the No. 1 spot for the Aztecs during his senior year in 1991.

However, Wasson takes at least some credit for her accomplishments, which have continued to pile up as of late.

She has competed on the Southwest Zone Team for the past three years, while also participating in the Spring Supernational Easter Bowl Tournament (Palm Springs, Calif.), the National Clay Court Championship (Plantation, Fla.) and the National Hard Court Championship (Atlanta).

Wasson, who was seeded seventh at the New Mexico Junior Open (Albuquerque, N.M.) over Labor Day Weekend, lost only one match to the tournament winner, but triumphed in the consolation round with victories in five of the next six matches.

One of those wins came against the New Mexico Class 4A state singles champion.

“Whatever she wants to put into the game is what she can get out of it,” Henneberry said. “It’s kind of up to her. It depends on how much she really wants it when she gets to that next level. She’s definitely going to play Division I tennis.”

Wasson received the Phoenix Area Tennis Association Penn Sportsmanship Award in April 2001. Last summer, she was presented with the Southwest Zone Team’s Sportsmanship Award.

Reach the reporter at brian.gomez@wranglernews.com.