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August 27, 2008 2:56 pm

Finesse and power

Written by Tribune Staff

Kienlen, Stockdale bring mix of talents to court
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Alexa Kienlen (left) and Taylor Stockdale (right) will be aiming for back-to-back doubles titles in 2008. The duo won the state championship at No. 3 doubles last year. This time around, however, they'll begin the season as the Lady Panthers' No. 1 doubles team. Tribune photo by David Dickey
Finesse and power — the pairing of those elements, according to Powell High School tennis coach Ray Bieber, can produce an almost unbeatable combination when it comes to doubles play.
For proof of that statement, one needs to look no farther than the dynamic doubles duo of Lady Panthers Alexa Kienlen and Taylor Stockdale. With Kienlen providing a large portion of the finesse game and Stockdale providing the majority of the power game, that tandem was able to win the state title at No. 3 doubles in 2007. They did so after being paired together following last year's preseason tournament that determined the Lady Panthers' starting lineup.
“Taylor actually was competing in the singles tournament, and things just didn't work out for her,” Bieber said. “At the end (of the tournament), Alexa was left without a partner, so we put those two together. You could tell they were going to be a good team.
“You need that combination of finesse and power when you play doubles, and that's what you get with those two. That's part of the reason they've been so successful. They both bring different strengths to the court, and they complement each other very well. They also get along very well. That's a big part of it. If you can't get along, it makes it a lot harder. These two have always worked well together, and that's one of the reasons they've been such a good team.”
As Kienlen and Stockdale played together more, success followed. Their confidence and their bond as teammates grew with each match. By the end of the season, they had earned a reputation as being one of the teams to beat at the state tournament.
“We weren't expecting it early,” Stockdale said about challenging for a state crown. “But as the season went along, we started thinking it was something we could do.”
Though the 2007 season ended on a strong note, Kienlen and Stockdale said they endured their share of ups and downs along the way. Among the down times were losses to Kelly Walsh in the regular season and the regional tournament. However, they learned from those setbacks and rebounded to defeat Kelly Walsh's doubles duo at the state tournament when a victory meant the most.
“To beat Kelly Walsh after losing to them twice was really cool,” Kienlen said. “
Because of their progress in 2007 and in the offseason, Kienlen and Stockdale have one thing on their minds when they step on the court this year — a repeat title. For that to happen, however, they'll have to successfully face the challenges mounted by a strong field of competitors.
Kienlen and Stockdale also are making the leap from No. 3 to No. 1 doubles. That jump in itself is a testament to their improved play because of the talented players they had to fend off from their own team in the tournament Bieber used to determine the starting lineup for the Lady Panthers.
Despite the obstacles ahead, both think back-to-back championships are a distinct reality.
“There is a lot of pressure to repeat, but I like that,” Kienlen said. “Coach Bieber is always calling me ‘Pressure Girl' because I tend to perform better when the pressure is on.”
Stockdale, according to Beiber, is the same in that she too elevates her game when the stakes are at their highest.
“I don't mind it,” Stockdale said about the pressure to repeat. “I like it because it makes me play that much harder.”
But these two aren't just focused on the goal of a state title in doubles. They also want to be leaders and play key roles in helping the Lady Panthers to a team title. The Lady Panthers, who finished sixth at the state tournament last season, have the majority of its players back, and Kienlen and Stockdale believe their is no limit to what this squad can accomplish.
“We only lost one player from last year, so I think there's a chance for us to win it” Kienlen said.
Added Stockdale, “Everybody has improved. Everybody seems to be playing better. We just have to keep working hard. If we can continue to get better during the season, I think it can be a really good year for us.”