By Matt Hill
Haley Thacker has made a “Wise” decision as far where she is going continue her tennis career and to get an education.
The Elizabethton High School standout signed a letter of intent to play for Danny Rowland at UVa-Wise at a ceremony in front of family, friends and fellow teammates on Tuesday.
The resume is impressive and includes a trip to the state tournament in doubles with Rita Basconi her sophomore season, and she has been all-conference the last three years.
Academically, Thacker hoists a 3.8 G.P.A. with part of this scholarship being academic.
Thacker liked what Wise had to offer, and her mother, Penni Kyte, is an alum at the school.
“The campus is really pretty and the coach is really nice,” Thacker said. “My dad lives over there, and I wanted to get an education. My mom supports me in everything I do and when Wise offered she was like “why not,” She’s going to be there every match.”
Thacker has seen major improvement in her game over the years, and knows the best is yet to come.
The shift now is to advancing to the state tournament in doubles with Christine Hardin, and the tandem will be the top seed in the upcoming District 1-A/AA Tournament.
The signing was very nice, but now it’s back to business and an opportunity to reach Murfreesboro for a second time.
“Me and Christine have decided that we’re staying after practice every day,” Thacker said. “Our goal is to go to state. She knows it’s my last year, so she knows she has a big part in it, I know I have a big part in it, and we have to work together in order to get to it.”
With Mallory Jackson from Unicoi County going the singles route, Thacker’s decision became more clear — and feels she has a good chance with Hardin in doubles.
“I decided to go doubles and our bracket looks pretty good, but we have to take it one match at a time,” she said.
One thing about it, Thacker will always go down fighting and that’s exactly what assistant coach Curtis Brumit said.
Curtis’ sister, Jessica, played with Thacker for three years, so he knows all the hard work and time she has put into the sport.
Thacker gave up basketball her sophomore year to focus full-time on tennis, and now it seems the move was the right one.
“She’s always been a fighter and every sport she does she’s competitive as hard as she can all the time,” Brumit said. “She’s always wanting to work hard and that’s going to pay off not only in tennis, but in life.”
This year Thacker has been called on to a lead the team on the court with her play and off the court as well. She has become a good leader and a player who her teammates look up to as a role model.
“I think at first it was a challenge,” Brumit said. “At first she had to learn to become a team leader on her own, and she also had to do it on the court and I think it’s been a huge experience for her to grow from and to help her out at UVA-Wise on her college team.
“She’s always been willing to work, she’s worked in the summers, we’ve gone to tournaments in Knoxville and she works there. She’s always trying to be the team leader and is always trying to keep these girls working hard to go farther and farther.”
Not only is Thacker a great tennis player and outstanding student, she is an awesome role model for youth of Elizabethton.
Thacker is very actively involved in children’s church at Southside Christian and is also involved in Young Life.
Thacker likes setting the example for everyone around her, and also loves to serve God by working with the kids at her church.
“I know people see the newspaper and I want the youth to think good of me and to be looking up to me,” she said. “I want to be a good example for them to look up to.
“I’m a huge fan of kids and I love kids. I do children’s church all the time and I work in the nursery. I just want them to look up to me. I like going to church and they’re all like looking for me and wondering where I am.”
Thacker has had plenty of role models in her own life and one has been Curtis Brumit. As was mentioned earlier, Brumit felt Thacker really has grown as a tennis player, and Thacker credits him for much of her continued improvement.
“Curtis is probably the one I’m going to thank more than anybody other than God and my mom,” Thacker said. “Without Curtis there is no way I could be where I am today. He stays after practice every day for free of price.”
UVA Wise head coach Danny Rowland likes Thacker’s consistent serve, lethal forehand and every other part of her game.
“She’s got great potential to be a really good player for us,” Rowland said. “I like everything about her game. She has a really good game that I feel will only get better when she surrounds herself with our team and with some good coaching and some very good competition.”
Thacker would like to thank God, Terri Brumit, Kenny Hardin, Curtis Brumit, Amanda Pike, Randy Kourschak, her mom (Penni Kyte) and her sister (Brittini Thacker)