Not even a trace of a smile comes across the face of Kaitlyn Haithcock when she is on the tennis court; unless, of course, it’s a smirk when she knows she has her opponent vulnerable and up against the ropes.
Fierce and fearless—that is how the Sonoma State women’s tennis head coach, Joaquin Lopez, describes Haithcock. Many athletes find that the hardest part of playing any sport is competing in a high-intensity game or match where everything is on the line. However, Lopez believes that is when Haithcock thrives.
“She basically elevates under pressure,” said Lopez. “She can get to access a place in her that’s just fearless.”
Haithcock is just beginning her sophomore year as a Seawolf at Sonoma State. Growing up in Alamo, she attended Monte Vista High School before becoming home schooled for her junior and senior years so she could focus more on her tennis career.
After getting a few offers from other colleges, Haithcock weighed her options and eventually decided to call Rohnert Park home. She said that Lopez was a big influence on her decision to come to Sonoma State.
“He was like a coach that I have never met before,” said Haithcock. “He was from Spain. He gave a different vibe and it was cool.”
She busted onto the scene in October last year in a new town, with new teammates, new courts and a new coach. However, it seems that she was unaffected by these changes because in only her second preseason appearance, Haithcock went home with a first place finish in the singles bracket at the Dominican University Invitational. She beat both the Penguins’ number one and number two players to walk away with the victory.
“That was probably my defining moment,” said Haithcock as she recalled the memory.
Looking back now, it ended up being a fitting start to her freshman year because by the end of it, Haithcock sported a 19-11 overall record in singles and a 16-9 record in doubles.
Lopez accredits her success last season to her aggressive style of play and the powerful force she becomes while on the court.
“She’s not a pusher, someone who plays really defensive,” said Lopez. “She just goes for it.”
Where did she learn to play so aggressively? Haithcock said her family had a big influence on her tennis career and the kind of player she is now.
Both her mother and father played tennis, which is what drove Haithcock to begin playing. It was her father, who played tennis at UCLA and coached her throughout her career, who pushed her to have the intensity and aggressiveness that she has today.
“At 10 o’clock at night after dinner we would go down to the nearby courts and we would just play for hours,” said Haithcock. “He kind of drove me to be fierce.”
Haithcock’s family also rallied behind her when she was faced with an injury that seriously affected her playing ability. For many years now, she has experienced pains in her right shoulder that hinder her on the court.
She was told she had pinched nerves with a slight case of scoliosis and, consequently, she was forced to take a year off to let the injury heal properly. Haithcock admitted it was hard for her to quit playing, but it was just as hard to play through the pain.
“That was probably the point where I was like ‘Should I keep hurting my body for this? Is it worth it?’” However, Haithcock promptly responded, “Definitely worth it.”
Every now and then her pain returns and causes her to lose practice time and even forfeit games. But, she is taking the necessary steps to limit the pain and is hopeful that the injury will not hinder her in future matches.
Lopez remains optimistic about Haithcock’s injury as well and believes that without the pain holding her back, she could have a very successful career as a Seawolf.
Off the court, Haithcock stays busy by hanging out with friends and being a part of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, which takes up much of her time. But, when her practices are over, matches are completed and homework is finished, she ultimately likes to relax and watch Netflix.
Haithcock has not yet declared a major, but she is hoping to become a business major so she can join the wine industry once she graduates.
As for her future as a tennis player, Haithcock is hoping to stay healthy and build upon her success from last season in her remaining three years. Lopez believes that she is more than capable doing so and, by continuing to grow as a player, she has the ability be more successful than any other tennis player who has ever wore the uniform.
“If we are able to lower her pain,” said Lopez, “she can play at a really high level by her senior year and be one of the best players at Sonoma State ever.”