Before this season, Kylie Skepnek and Haley Steinkamp had never played doubles together. By the end of the year, they were sectional doubles champions, Class 2A state qualifiers and they even won two consolation matches at the state finals.
Both qualified for state as juniors in 2016, Steinkamp in singles and Skepnek in doubles with former teammate Katie Toomire. Their 2017 pairing took some getting used to, but by the end of the year, the duo was rolling.
They won the No. 1 doubles flight at the Fox Valley Conference tournament and helped the Golden Eagles claim the FVC regular season and tournament titles as a team.
For their accomplishments, Skepnek and Steinkamp were selected as Northwest Herald Girls Tennis Players of the Year by the sports staff, with input from area coaches. They are the first Jacobs girls tennis players to win the award since singles player Ashley Kosy in 2015.
Steinkamp is committed to play tennis at Division II Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, North Carolina. Skepnek plans to play tennis in college but has not decided on a school. Steinkamp and Skepnek recently spoke with sports writer Sean Hammond about senior year, their funniest teammates and favorite movies.
How did you get into tennis?
Steinkamp: My sister (Lauren Steinkamp), she’s six years older than me. When she started playing in high school is when I started. I just got bored going to the courts with my dad and my sister all the time and not playing.
Skepnek: In fifth grade, my mom signed me up with a friend, and ever since then I’ve loved it. I took lessons, and when I came to high school, it became more serious, more of a focus.
Who’s your favorite pro tennis player?
Steinkamp: Novak Djokovic. When I was a freshman, sophomore I really struggled with the mental game of tennis. When I can see people remain calm and keep in the next point without letting the last point affect them, I find that really admirable. He demonstrates that really well.
Skepnek: I love Roger Federer. He’s one of the best players in the world, and his serves are amazing.
Who’s your funniest teammate?
Steinkamp: Nikole Gilman. She breaks out into singing all the time, she makes bus rides really fun.
Skepnek: My funniest teammate is definitely my partner Haley Steinkamp. She always puts a smile on my face. She makes really good jokes, and she’s just got a fun spirit about her that rubs off.
What are you going to remember most about your senior season?
Steinkamp: What I took away the most from my senior year was how to work with a teammate. My first three years, I played singles. This year, when I transferred to doubles, our first couple weeks were rough, as it would be for any new team. Her and I had been friends outside of tennis since seventh grade. I really took away from the season how to be a good doubles partner.
Skepnek: What I’m going to remember most is the good memories I had with my team.
What’s the most memorable match from this season?
Steinkamp: The sectional championship. We had to go indoors, it was pouring outside. I don’t know what it was, but Kylie and I, we went out there and said we were going to beat these girls. We wanted to make it our goal to win the sectional because we believed that we could. We went out there and took care of business. It was really cool to see.
Skepnek: Definitely when me and Haley played our first doubles match together. From then on, our coach really knew that we’d fit each other and that we’d be playing the rest of the season.
Who’s your biggest hero?
Steinkamp: My dad (Randy Steinkamp). He’s always been very supportive and pushes me to do my best. He was my coach up until high school.
Skepnek: My biggest heroes are my parents (Kelly and Randy Skepnek). They give so much love and support to me.
What’s something most people wouldn’t know about you?
Steinkamp: I know how to play the ukulele. I have for a few years.
Skepnek: I’m a three-sport athlete. I do tennis and dance in the fall and dance during the winter. I do track and field in the spring.
What’s your favorite class?
Steinkamp: AP psychology.
Skepnek: Art. It gets my mind off of stuff. I love drawing and painting.
Do you have any nicknames?
Steinkamp: There’s a couple. The seniors that all left and Ashley (Kosy) used to call me Hailstorm. I get Hay a lot.
Skepnek: I’ve had Skep before. Or Ky.
What are your three favorite movies?
Steinkamp: “Step Brothers.” “Silver Linings Playbook.” “Brother Bear.”
Skepnek: “The Parent Trap.” “The Sound of Music.” The third would have to be a Disney movie, I’m not exactly sure which one.
What would be your superhero power?
Steinkamp: Super speed.
Skepnek: It would probably be invisibility.
What’s the coolest place you’ve ever been?
Steinkamp: For my sister’s graduation we went to the west coast, and we went down the coast of Oregon and California.
Skepnek: Atlantis in the Bahamas.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three things would you bring with you?
Steinkamp: My dog, my guitar or my ukulele. And my sister.
Skepnek: Definitely water, some type of fuel and then food.