Kirby Einck’s mother, Karen, has a Division I tennis pedigree, but she is typically on the losing end of court battles these days with Kirby, a Geneva sophomore.
Join the club, mom.
Einck, who recently capped a 29-6 season that included a conference singles championship and four wins at the IHSA State Tournament, is the Kane County Chronicle’s Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
Karen Einck played college tennis at Northern Illinois and used to be Kirby’s primary tennis coach until, as Kirby put it, the competitive tension put too much of a strain on their relationship. These days, mom and daughter play together for laughs – for the most part.
“It starts off just for fun but then it gets more competitive as the match moves on,” the Vikings’ standout said.
Einck began playing an aggressive, United States Tennis Association tournament schedule during middle school, and for the last two and a half years, has worked under the tutelage of Will White, tennis director at Five Seasons in Burr Ridge.
“He really kind of woke me up and told me I needed to get in shape if I wanted to get any better and work on my footwork,” Einck said. “He really helped on my strategy, but mainly my footwork.”
White said Einck is making strides on her net game – a key, next step for her – and “hasn’t even tapped into her potential” yet to become an elite player.
If she continues improving at the rate she did the past year, Einck would be encouraged. She had an impressive freshman season at Geneva, immediately debuting at No. 1 singles and qualifying for the state tournament, but thought she was much more dominant this season.
“I worked really hard over the winter because I really wanted to go further in the state tournament, and I achieved all of my goals,” Einck said. “Making it to Saturday morning [at the state tournament] was just the icing on top of the cake.”
Einck also nabbed her first UEC River singles championship, though she said she was a bit disappointed that last year’s conference champion, Brittany Plaszewski of St. Charles North, elected not to play high school tennis this fall.
Geneva coach Maureen Weiler thought Einck’s progress was evident from the first match of the season, when she topped Bartlett standout Jen Gates.
“That kind of made Kirby see all the work she had done throughout the entire year really did pay off,” Weiler said.
Weiler’s relationship with Einck solidified at Geneva Middle School South, where Weiler was Einck’s eighth-grade math teacher.
When the Einck family moved to Geneva in fourth grade, it marked Kirby’s fifth hometown. Separate stints living in Michigan, where she was born, were sandwiched around years living in Mississippi and Arkansas.
“It’s definitely opened me up,” said Einck, who won two matches in the winner’s bracket and two in the consolation draw at the state tournament. “I’ve had to meet new people over and over again so I’ve kind of had to come out of my shell a little bit. It’s made me stronger, moving away, leaving friends and going to a new life, basically.”
Her strength on the court goes without question. White, who works with Karen Einck – a tennis pro at Five Seasons – confirms that Kirby Einck has leapfrogged mom on the tennis court.
“But I don’t think she can beat her in a marathon,” White said. “Her mom runs two or three marathons a year, but definitely she can take her down on the tennis court.”