ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Times Indiana Female Athlete of the Year: Crown Point's Courtney Kvachkoff

2012-07-06T21:15:00Z 2013-07-05T00:18:05Z Times Indiana Female Athlete of the Year: Crown Point's Courtney KvachkoffBy Hillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

When Courtney Kvachkoff decided to give a new sport a try, she did so with a patented smile and positive attitude.

So what if she couldn't hit a backhanded shot, she'd play tennis.

So what if she hadn't spent a single moment on the varsity tennis court, she'd give it a shot.

So what if she already had her schooling at St. Joseph's paid for with a basketball scholarship, this was a new chance.

"I was thinking 'this is great, we've got this stud athlete," said Brian Elston, the Crown Point girls tennis coach. "Then I asked her sister, Abby, how good is she? Abby said, 'You don't want her, I beat her all the time, she can't even hit a backhand.'

"When it came to conditioning, she was the fastest one there, she did all the drills the best, she could jump rope the best."

Kvachkoff surprised tennis opponents -- and her coach -- when instead of hitting the ball with a traditional backhand, she switched the racket from her right to her left, then back again.

"Not being able to hit a backhand, that actually helped me a lot," Kvachkoff said. "It was hard for the other girls to adjust to that. They weren’t sure which was my weaker hand, and that was an advantage."

She finished her only season of tennis with an 18-3 record, and her 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 3 helped the Bulldogs sweep the singles points against Lowell in the sectional championship, giving Kvachkoff her only sectional title in 11 tries at Crown Point.

"Her dad mentioned that when she started, and I thought, 'Oh no, this is the only thing she hasn't gotten in her illustrious career,'" Elston said. "At the banquet, I told her father, 'I want you to remember, this is the sport she won a sectional title in.' She really was an amazing player.

"One thing about Courtney, any drill it is, she wants to win it. If you had a drill to pick up 100 cards, she'd try to win it. She picked up the game (of tennis) very quickly, she's the most competitive player on the team. First, she just started beating people, then she started whooping on them. She hits shots so differently, and it's hard to adjust to her."

Kvachkoff earned letters in four sports at Crown Point -- volleyball, basketball, softball and tennis. She becomes the first Bulldogs athlete since aunt Annie (Kvachkoff) Equihua to win the Times Athlete of the Year award.

""I see her being a much more well-rounded player," said Equihua during the basketball season when she coached her niece, "and I think she's smarter as well as understanding when to drive, when is my time to take my girl one-on-one."

Kvachkoff was a first-team member of the Times All-Area teams in volleyball and basketball in 2011-12. She had a team high 35 blocks and added 203 kills, 40 aces and 339 digs in her senior volleyball season. In basketball, she followed up a summer as a North Junior All-Star averaging 14.2 points, 2.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds as her role on the team pulled her away from the basket more and opponents ganged up to try to stop her.

Though the basketball numbers were down a little from her junior season, they came because Kvachkoff was asked to adjust her style of play. As the Duneland Athletic Conference defenses started ganging up on her, Kvachkoff saw her assist numbers expand as she dished off more passes.

"I think when you see her point average drop a little, not a lot, but when that drops a little, and her assist average goes up, (even though) she's still doing everything that she's been doing," Equihua said near the halfway point of the season. "Unfortunately, when kids look at their points, they think 'I must not be playing a very good game.' What you have to tell them is that they're playing a more well-rounded game."

Kvachkoff plans to whittle her time down to just basketball at St. Joseph's. She'll major in accounting -- or something "math" -- conquering the challenge others can't master.

"The first thing to say about her is that she's the biggest sweetheart in the world," Elston said. "She's a great kid, with a great family, and she's so intelligent. It helped that I knew her as a student first.

"What's always surprised me is that if she's losing or winning big time, it doesn't matter, she's always smiling."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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