Since she was a young girl, Cabrillo’s Kayla Kling has usually found herself moving from place to place every few years.
She moved around a lot because her father, Clair King, who has been a member of the Air Force for many years and is currently a Lieutenant Coronel at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc.
Since Kling was nine years old, however, tennis was a constant in her life. She started playing in England, continued in Louisiana, continued in Nebraska and, most recently, continued in Santa Barbara County at Cabrillo High.
Last season, Kling had high hopes entering the Channel League individual tournament. She was bounced out of the tournament on the first day.
Fast forward to Thursday afternoon, and Kling completely rewrote her script.
One year after losing in the first round, Kling made it all the way to the finals of the Channel League tournament and beat San Marcos freshman Natasha Gill in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4 to win her first individual league title.
“To go out here and actually win this, it is a dream come true because I’ve never made it this far. I didn’t even make it past the first day last year. It’s a whole new experience,” Kling said.
Despite being a junior, Kling is only 15 years old due to her starting school earlier in England.
Kling moved to the Lompoc area about a year and a half ago and began going to school at Cabrillo.
Since then, she has fell in love with the community, especially since she knows this will be the last time she has to move, at least until she makes a decision of where to go for college.
“I love Cabrillo. I love all the different opportunities there. I’m in graphics, there’s an aquarium there and I met a lot of good friends that I will probably know for a very long time … I really enjoy it and we’re staying here so I am happy about that,” Kling said.
While last season Kling was bounced from the first round of the tournament by Santa Barbara’s Claire Stotts, this year, the Texas-born native has reworked her game, so much so that she earned the top seed in the singles tournament.
After Thursday’s win, Kling capped off her great year against Channel League opponents, losing two just two matches all year.
“At first I was very predictable. I would use my slice constantly last season and now I keep my shots deeper, I have a lot more variety so I am not that predictable anymore and my mental game is a lot better when it comes to frustration,” Kling said.
Gill certainly made Kling work for that title. The two matches during the season were tough as well, with Kling winning one 7-5 and the other 6-3.
In the first set, both girls held serve their first two times around to be tied at 2-2.
Gill then broke Kling and held on her next go around to go up 4-2.
“It’s always a little bit frustrating when you’re down. However, if you are confident in your shots, you can really get your mind into that winning state,” Kling said.
With that in mind, Kling began attacking more and started hitting the spots on the court she wanted with pinpoint accuracy.
She would take the final four games to win the set 6-4.
In the second, much of the same action took place. Gill held serve and then broke Kling to go up 2-0 and would eventually hold a 4-1 lead later in the set.
“She’s such a great defensive player. She can just get everything, she should run track. And, because she could get everything I knew I had to be careful about where I placed my shots because if I gave her the opportunity she would smash me into oblivion which is what she did early on,” Kling said.
Kling then again slowed the match down and started finding her accuracy across the court, tiring out Gill and earning some key points on long rallies. Kling’s powerful forehand also made a reappearance which would sometimes throw Gill off as she could not return the shot.
Up 5-4, Kling got two of her five aces on the day in the final game. She had three in the second set alone.
“My serve is something I am always working on but I knew I really had to pick it up in that last set whether it meant just going harder or more tactical,” Kling said.
A great forehand across the court, which could not be returned by Gill, finally secured the win for Kling.
With the win, Kling earned the highest bid from the Channel League in the CIF individual tournament which will take place in November.
“It’s going to be a new experience. I know there’s a lot of schools that we don’t know and with no experience, I’m a little bit nervous but I have time to practice,” Kling said.
Gill will also be joining her counterpart in the CIF tournament.
“I’m proud of how I did today and I think next year I’ll be able to do better by working harder,” Gill said.
“I don’t really know what it (CIF tournament) is yet but I am excited and hopefully I have a few good matches,” Gill said.
In the doubles final, San Marcos’s senior pair of Samantha Forster and Bella Muñoz faced Santa Barbara’s freshman duo of Koko Kelly and Charlotte Ryan.
Kelly/Ryan beat Forster/Muñoz just a couple of weeks ago on the Dons home court. It was the only loss the San Marcos couplet had suffered all season.
On Thursday, Forster and Muñoz got their revenge, toughing out a 6-4, 6-4 straight-set win to finish the year with just one loss in Channel League play.
“It was relieving and exciting at the same time. We worked so hard to be here,” Muñoz said.
“Today, both of our net game was really well and the last time we played them they were able to take advantage of that but we were just better with our shots and we knew what to expect.”
This is the first year Forster and Muñoz had played doubles together, but the two had been friends off the court for years making their transition a bit easier and more successful.
“It really helped having a connection beforehand,” Forster said.
“It’s been easier to communicate with her because we both know each other so well,” Muñoz said.
Both pairs will advance to the CIF individual tournament which begins on November 22.