FORTVILLE – Kylie Brandes admitted she is a soccer player that also plays tennis.
She is really good at both.
Only a freshman, the Mt. Vernon Marauder is the Daily Reporter Girls Tennis Athlete of the Year.
Among her accomplishments in her first high school season, Brandes went 20-3 with No. 1 singles titles in the Hancock County Tournament and Mt. Vernon Invitational. She helped the Marauders get county and sectional team championships and earned All-Hoosier Heritage Conference recognition. She wrapped up the season by being selected second team all-state by the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association (IHSTECA).
“We knew that Kylie would be an absolute bulldog on the court, but we didn’t know to the level how much she would fight,” Mt. Vernon coach Gabe Muterspaugh said. “She’s a freshman. You go through the season and you’re watching and watching and you notice — this girl is special. She’s almost like a machine out there. You better be able to outwork her, and not a lot of girls are going be able to do that. She’s in absolute great shape. She’s very coachable. (Her season) exceeded our expectations.”
Brandes and Muterspaugh believe playing soccer helped on the tennis court.
In the county tournament final against talented Eastern Hancock Italian exchange student Bianca DiVittorio, Brandes won in a third-set super tie-breaker, 6-4, 3-6, 10-7.
The stamina from soccer season helped Brandes still be fresh at the end of long matches.
“Since I played soccer I have more endurance,” Brandes said. “It’s a different shape. There’s tennis shape and there’s soccer shape. I think in the longer matches other girls wore out. I was still in there. It definitely helps.”
Muterspaugh said that kind of shape is critical for the type of tennis he wants his girls — and boys in the fall — to play.
“We play a schedule where we have to be in shape or we are going to get beat,” the coach said. “The type of tennis we play, we’re not going to be beaten by girls that are in better shape than us. If they have more talent, we’re OK with that. Both girls and boys, we want to be the best conditioned team. If not, in tennis, you are going to get beat.”
Brandes had a good first season on the soccer field, too. She was the third leading scorer (23 points) on an 11-4-1 team that went 7-0 and won the conference title. She led the team in assists (9) and was tied for fourth in goals (7).
Playing soccer not just helped her match durability, but it helped with the transition of being a freshman on an all-senior team. Two of the seniors were Maddie Swingle and Shay Shipley, key players and leaders from the soccer team.
In addition, she was coming in with big shoes to fill. Graduated No. 1 Lydia Ruegsegger was also a second-team all-stater. She is now playing college tennis at Grace College.
“I think (playing soccer) helped tremendously,” Muterspaugh said. “I’ve always been a huge proponent of playing multiple sports. You look at it and you have a freshman second-team all-state player and she still has time to be an excellent soccer player. We promote multiple sport athletes. We want to have kids that compete in other sports. I think it makes you a better athlete and a better teammate. At the end of the day, that is what colleges are looking for, too.”
The team didn’t miss a bit with the newcomer at No. 1. The county title was the team’s 12th in a row. The sectional win was the eighth straight.
“(My teammates) were all so nice, the sweetest people ever,” Brandes said. “I don’t think they cared (I was a freshman). I knew Shay and Maddie from soccer and they are the best leaders I’ve had. Going into tennis with them made this one of my best years.”
“She already had a relationship with (Shay and Maddie),” Muterspaugh added. “It was a freshman and six seniors on our varsity lineup. That could have gone very wrong quickly if we didn’t have a great group of seniors like (Swingle and Shipley), who she played with all year. They brought her in and made her feel comfortable. That was huge for our culture and what Mt. Vernon tennis is all about. I can’t thank the seniors enough. I think they made the transition easy for her.”
Brandes lost her first match of the season, against another all-stater in Pendleton Heights Abby Cruser, then went on to win all but one match until the regional round of the team tournament. All three of her losses were to girls that were either first-team or second-team all-state.
“Lydia was second team all-state and probably one of the top three players we’ve ever had,” Muterspaugh said. “Then, you think about Kylie coming in as a freshman, she didn’t let expectations get her at all. I think it’s the type of parents she has in (Jeff and Beth Brandes) and the type of athlete she is. She has been groomed and has played tennis and soccer her whole life. She learned from her dad you have to be even-keeled, especially at the No. 1 singles spot.”
For Brandes, it’s time to move on to the school’s soccer season, which will begin playing games in August.
There are many seasons ahead in both sports, but she can look back at the first one as being very special.
“It was a really good year,” Brandes said. “I didn’t expect to go 20-3. The teammates made it better and the coaches made it fun. It was just a good overall year.”