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Berry persevered to the top of Norwalk wins list

Mark Hazelwood • Sep 3, 2019 at 9:27 PM

NORWALK — In the seventh grade, Megan Berry picked up a tennis racket for the first time.

That summer, she went to the Norwalk girls tennis camp and was uneasy about playing in the beginner’s group. Berry started hitting with current Norwalk girls tennis assistant coach Harry Love, a 101-match winner from the boys program.

“And I hit him with the ball and didn’t know what I was doing,” Berry said.

As she kept playing the sport before high school, Berry played in a couple offseason tournaments.

She got absolutely destroyed.

On Tuesday, she walked off the court a winner at first singles for the Truckers in an SBC Lake Division sweep at Vermilion. The senior also left the court as the all-time wins leader in program history.

Berry will enter today’s match at Fremont Ross with a record of 89-27, and atop the leaderboard for career wins. Tuesday’s feat was possible because at that point of her young career, Berry realized something.

“That it’s OK to lose,” she said. “It taught me that I know I’m not the best player out there, but I can always improve. And always work on something.”

According to Norwalk head coach Chris Higgins, the steady improvement of Berry has been the storyline of her career.

“There have been so many memorable matches, but the one I point at as a coach was her first match as our starting first singles player at Fremont Ross,” Higgins said. “Megan showed she had the mental toughness to be No. 1 in a match that we were the underdogs.”

With the 2017 match tied 2-2, the then-sophomore Berry managed to win a lengthy match by scores of 6-3, 6-4, to clinch the team victory over Ross as well.

“It really set the tone for that season and the rest of her career as her confidence started to elevate,” Higgins said.

Berry passed seven players this season to reach No. 1 all-time, including the previous record holders of 88 wins (Karlee Talkington ’15 and Olivia Kasten ’11).

As a freshman, Berry burst onto the high school scene with a 27-7 record at third singles while earning Northern Ohio League first team honors. It was then she realized that not only did she like tennis, but she could grow and improve as well.

“It’s kind of crazy, and nothing I expected to do,” Berry said of the record. “It’s really cool though. It wasn’t a goal of mine … my goal was to go out and play good tennis for my team.

“It’s not something I’m going to go around bragging about or the most important thing, but it feels like a very good bonus,” she added.

That 2016 freshman season is also when Higgins knew he had something special as a coach.

"Like any successful student-athlete, Megan has worked very hard to get better over time,” he said. “Her freshman year, I knew (we had something special) when she started developing skills and beating girls older than her at third singles.”

As a sophomore, Berry was 21-12 and advanced out of the sectional tournament to the district while earning All-Sandusky Bay Conference Lake first team at first singles.

“She has not looked back since then,” Higgins said. “She has taken the role very seriously and thrived playing against the best player on the other team for three years.”

Last season, Berry was 31-3 and again was SBC first team and reached the district with doubles partner Jordan Gran.

So far this season, Berry is 10-5 and is looking to become a four-time first team selection to an all-league team as well as a three-time district qualifier.

“The goal is to make it back to districts and see how far I can get,” Berry said. “As long as I’m playing my best, I just want to see where it goes.”

Higgins also pointed out that while athletic records are meant to be celebrated, the accomplishments don’t show Berry’s true contributions.

“She’s been a great teammate, leader and role model for our tennis program at Norwalk,” he said. “Megan’s success in the classroom should also be celebrated. She is an outstanding member of the student body. I have been lucky enough to have her in tennis for four years as well as the classroom for three years.”

For her part, Berry is just as proud of the team success at Norwalk.

Since 2009, Norwalk has finished no worse than 12-5 in a regular season, and twice finished with just one loss (18-1 and 19-1 in 2013-14).

In league matches, the Truckers are 115-11 since 2009, including 72-2 since 2013. Norwalk is off to a 10-2 mark (5-0 Lake) this season.

 

“We’re really consistent and we have depth,” Berry said of this season to date. “I still feel like we’re growing as a team and everyone really cares about it and tries their best. We all really just have fun playing together … it just works out.”

Part of the reason for the team success is the culture that has been long established, Berry said.

 

“It’s probably because we’re aren’t just practicing during the season,” she said. “We practice throughout the year whenever we can. Open courts during the summer, boys and girls, beginners and advanced. … there is always people out there hitting.

“We just go out and play, and it’s really fun,” Berry added. “It’s not mandatory, but we always have good attendance for great coaches who are really dedicated to the team. Everyone wants to be a part of it.”

And though Berry didn’t know she was nearing the top of the program wins list, she readily admits to having her eye on something else.

“I do think about 100 (wins) a little bit,” she said. “To hit that would be pretty cool.”

 

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Norwalk career wins list

1. Megan Berry (2016-present) 89

2. Karlee Talkington (2012-15) 88

3. Olivia Kasten (2008-11) 88

4. Anessa Berry (2013-16) 86

5. Lauren Ott (2011-14) 86

6. Jordan Gran (2015-18) 85

7. Kaitlyn Stoll (2013-16) 82

8. Johnna Thomas (2012-15) 79

9. Lauren Steffanni (2012-15) 75

10. Jaclynn Hipp (2007-10) 74

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