Beaufort Today -

Freshman leads Beaufort tennis into 2017 season

  • Beaufort Today file photo McKenzie Daniel, left, poses with her state tournament medal alongside Bluffton’s Rachel Riley.
  • Courtesy of Kirsten Stone Beaufort’s Sophie Bellomy hits a forehand in a match last season.
  • Courtesy of Kirsten Stone Beaufort senior Lucy Bruns prepares for a return in a match last season.

Beaufort, a consistent state playoff team under coach Dave Riedmayer, gets its tennis season underway this week.

Depth will determine how far the Eagles go, but having a clear-cut No. 1 player is important. And Beaufort may have a star in rising freshman McKenzie Daniel.

As an eighth-grader last year, Daniel placed sixth in the singles state tournament, which led to a preseason ranking of 12th heading into this season. Riedmayer said she has the ability to be the best player he’s coached in 14 years at Beaufort.

“Last year, there were some hard feelings with her passing older players,” he said. “But I think this year everybody is pretty much used to it. It’s pretty much expected. She’s here and she’s pretty dang good.”

Riedmayer said the team’s acceptance of Daniel’s status as top player came through an appreciation of her work ethic.

“We try to explain to the rest of the team that it’s all based on hard work,” he said. “One time she couldn’t come to practice where we were going to hit for two hours because she had already hit for seven hours that day before practice. … That was kind of an eye-opener for them.’”

Seniors Morgan Louw, Sophie Bellomy, Kirsten Stone and Lucy Bruns round out the first five spots on a balanced Beaufort ladder.

The Eagles hope their experience and Daniel’s dominance in the No. 1 slot — she went 21-3 last season — will give them an edge over Hilton Head Island, their annual competitor for the region title.

Riedmayer also is tasked with helping Daniel improve her craft over the next four seasons before a potential college career.

“I’ve been brainstorming about how to use her in practice because it’s not going to be a great experience for her to be practicing against our team,” he said. “I mean, it’s great for teambuilding and everything. But for her to get better, we have to be creative.”

Riedmayer said he’s been bringing in top players from the boys team to challenge her, but even so, he said, “She beats them.”

Beaufort’s next match is at home Thursday against John Paul II.