NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College junior Paige McKinney, Newton, won the women’s singles title at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association-National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Central-West Regional, played Sept. 26-28 in Topeka.
McKinney went 5-0 for the weekend, winning the championship flight singles title without dropping a set. In the finals, she beat Sydnee Mela of William Jewell 6-3, 6-0.
The victory qualifies McKinney for the ITA-NAIA Small College National Tennis Championships Oct. 16-19 in Mobile, Ala., a tournament comprised of the eight regional winners.
“Paige had a wonderful tournament,” said Bethel coach Lonnie Isaac. “We knew going in that if she played up to her capabilities, she would have a great chance of winning. If she plays like she is capable of, I would not be surprised to see her make a big dent at [the national championships] as well.”
Last season, her first at Bethel, McKinney went undefeated in singles play in the regular season and earned the highest national ranking ever by a Bethel tennis player, with the end-of-season NAIA poll putting her at #15. She was named to the NAIA All-American 2nd Team for women’s tennis, was a unanimous 1st Team Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference selection and was named KCAC Newcomer of the Year and Most Valuable Player.
The ITA designated her the Player to Watch for 2008-09, an award given to only one player nationally each year.
“Winning produced mixed emotions of relief and excitement,” McKinney said of playing in the Central-West Regional. “I just felt blessed by Christ to have the opportunity to even be playing in the finals.
“To prepare for the national championship, I am going to try to polish my game and increase my endurance,” she continued. “It is one thing to be in practice shape and another to be in tournament shape. The weekend [in Topeka] definitely contributed to improving my stamina, but my coach needs to tie me to the back of a car and say, ‘Start running!’
“I want people to know how special my teammates and coach are,” she added. “It is not fair that I get the glory for going to nationals when they worked hard, too. Coach Isaac pushes me and my teammates are always encouraging me.” Also competing for Bethel in the Central-West Regional were freshmen Julia Huxman, Wichita, and Katie Malotte, Marysville, sophomores Rachel Bachman, Emporia, and Allison Kaster, Wichita, and seniors Abby Miller, Elkhart, Ind., and Katie Robertson, Lawrence, in addition to members of the men’s tennis team.
McKinney is a 2006 graduate of Newton High School and is the daughter of Chrystal and Rick McKinney, Newton. She transferred to Bethel in 2007 after playing one season at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. In sports, Bethel competes in the KCAC and is part of the NAIA’s Region IV. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.