Elly McKenna adds versatility to Saint Michael’s women’s tennis – Lowell Sun
Whether its working with a partner, or out on her own, Elly McKenna is no stranger to pulling double duty on the tennis court, these days.
The Lowell Catholic graduate is taking her game to the next level, with the Saint Michael’s College women’s tennis team.
“We’re having a pretty good competitive season so far,” said McKenna, whose junior season was scrubbed due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. “We have seven girls really committed to the team, and ready to go.”
Facing the iron of the Northeast-10 Conference hasn’t been easy. Saint Michael’s lost a pair of home matches over the weekend, suffering a 6-1 setback to nationally regarded Stonehill College, Saturday, before falling to Bentley University, 7-0, on Sunday.
A senior, McKenna was in the middle of it all. After enduring a 6-2 loss at first doubles, the Lowell native notched a come-from-behind victory at fourth singles against Stonehill, claiming her career-high third singles victory, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Although the team is still searching for its first NE10 victory, the Purple Knights (1-6 overall) are staying positive.
“Our record might not be wonderful, but we’ve had big wins both individually and at doubles for our team,” said McKenna, 21. “It’s really been a lot of fun to just get back into the competitive grind.”
Joining the team as a freshman, McKenna came off the bench playing wherever she could, from third doubles to sixth singles.
She worked her way into the starting lineup as a sophomore, playing third doubles with teammate Abby Edelmann.
“That was wonderful,” said McKenna, who played singles throughout high school. “I really learned a lot about how to move on the court and how to work with a teammate directly.”
For her senior year, that grind now includes working overtime on the court perfecting both roles as a starter.
It’s been a welcomed, yet exhausting evolution for the Dean’s List student.
“This year, being in the starting lineup for both has been quite an adjustment,” said McKenna. “I played singles in high school, so it’s not that I’m not unfamiliar with the game, but its more so just mentally adjusting to being on the court with another player, then hopping right into a two or three setter match alone.”
“It’s been tough on the mental game to keep yourself positive hitting out there alone,” she added. “But it’s also been a wonderful opportunity to improve my game and improve my strokes, because when you’re out there by yourself it’s all on you.”
Born and raised in Lowell, Ellen Kyle McKenna first picked up the racquet in the sixth grade while attending St. Michaels School. The following year, McKenna’s mother, Marianne, signed on to coach the seventh-grade team.
“Those practices consisted of us eating Goldfish off on the sideline and then running a few drills,” McKenna recalled. “It was a blast.”
The Christian Hill resident was a five-sport letterman at Lowell Catholic, including three years of volleyball, two years of indoor track, and even one year of swimming. She was never far from the court, however, serving as girls tennis team captain three of her four seasons.
“Once I got into tennis, the competitiveness that comes with it both individually and as a team, took over,” she said. “A lot of people think of tennis as an individual sport. There’s an individual side, but there’s also such a strong team camaraderie that people aren’t aware of. Being able to show that on the court, and back your teammates at the same time has been great.”
A member of both the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society, McKenna is also intent on seeing the world. The two-time NE10 Academic Honor Roll student recently studied abroad, travelling to Seville, Spain this spring.
“I was super fortunate,” said McKenna, who was making her first trip to Europe. “I was one of only four Saint Michaels students whose program actually ran for the spring. Spanish is one of my majors in college, so to actually have the experience to live, breathe and eat Spanish every single day was super. It took my Spanish to a whole new level. I learned more in three-and-a-half months than I have in years.”
She resided with a host family, living within walking distance to her university. Although she wasn’t allowed to leave Spain due to Covid travel restrictions, it only enhanced her experience.
“Being stuck in southern Spain made me really feel at home,” McKenna said. “When it came time to leave in May, I was so sad to leave my family and both my international and Spanish friends. To have that experience and know that all my roommates were unfortunately stuck here on campus made me more thankful every day that I was walking the streets of Seville.”
Since returning stateside, however, McKenna is focused on the task at hand. The Purple Knights enter the second half of 2021 looking to make their mark.
“Our main goal is to keep spirits high and get a few more wins on our record,” said McKenna. “We have some tough matches coming up in the NE10, but also some winnable ones. That’s how you really improve in tennis is hitting against players who can slam the ball back at you. I think we’re just going to try to keep an open mind, give it our best shot in every match and just finish strong.”
Saint Michaels can certainly count on Elly McKenna to deliver, at singles, doubles, and all the above.