If one would have asked Lyons junior Kristen Thoms a year ago where she wanted to play collegiate tennis, she said she would have responded by saying, “somewhere in California.”
Thoms now knows she wants to play at the University of Iowa. But she said she isn’t sure if she’ll play for Lyons in the fall.
The USTA has made it much harder to qualify for its best tournaments, she said, putting the pressure on tennis players of her caliber to keep their rankings up so they can play the nation’s best opponents in the best USTA tournaments.
That was why Thoms didn’t compete in the state tournament at the end of her junior campaign with Lyons — a USTA regional was scheduled for the same weekend — and it’s why she’s still uncertain about her senior season.
“I kind of want to keep on training and playing these USTA tournaments because I need to keep my ranking up so I can play them,” Thoms said. “When you’re in high school season, you don’t have a lot of time. You can’t play as many tournaments. I can’t let my ranking drop that much, just because of this new system.
“Otherwise, I would definitely play high school tennis. I love being on the team and representing the school and everything. Just this new system with the USTA, it’s ridiculous. You have to play. You can’t miss a tournament.”
Thoms’ style of play has transformed in the last 12 months. She has become more of a power player, and in doing so, the faster indoor game suddenly suited her better.
That was a major reason why she committed at the end of January to play for Iowa, but there were several other factors.
“When I visited the campus, I loved the team and the coaches,” Thoms said. “That was my first priority — the team and the coaches. The bonus was the campus is great. They have a lot of resources for athletes. They have this whole building for the academics part — for athletes, to help them.
“For me, that’s great because I would love to have a lot of help for academics. Obviously I don’t want to go pro. I just want to be a great college tennis player and come out of college with a good degree and everything. That was one of the key reasons why I chose Iowa.”