O'Meally is smashing on summer tour Morgan star scores impressive victories

July 30, 1991|By John W. Stewart

The intriguing part of the Delise O'Meally story is nobody knows just how good she can be as a tennis player.

O'Meally, backed by one semester and an injury-marred season at Morgan State, is making her presence felt on the Eastern summer tournament circuit.

Unknown and unannounced, O'Meally burst on the local scene recently when she won the American Tennis Association's Baltimore Open at Druid Hill Park.

She created a stir when she eliminated Jackie Jackson, winner of the event the three previous years, in the semifinals, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, and defeated Eileen Garter in the final, 6-0, 6-1.

Then there was an ATA tournament in Philadelphia, where she reached the rain-delayed final, then had to default because the Monday match conflicted with her summer-school classes. Appearances in two more ATA events are planned before the association's national championships in Washington, Aug. 11-17.

There are some successes in her tennis background, but there was a layoff, and now she is working to get back into competitive form.

O'Meally, 23, is a native of Jamaica and sharpened her tennis in the island's junior program between 14 and 18, winning two Jamaican National Junior titles. She attended West Indies University in Jamaica for three years, during which time she got away from the sport.

She moved to New York, home for some of her family, and was working as a computer programmer when Morgan State tennis coach Larry Frazier found her during a visit to the National Tennis Center in Queens. She was not playing, but was recommended to him by former Morgan tennis player Ann Koger.

"She had some other college scholarship offers, but wound up coming here last winter," Frazier said recently. "When we brought her in, we told her she would be No. 1 or No. 2."

O'Meally, soft-spoken, with an omnipresent bright smile, said it wasn't easy returning to the sport.

"It was very difficult to get back into the swing of things. I was put in No. 1, and thus felt a lot of responsibility," she said. "I had to work very hard. I was out of shape, and had no stamina. I couldn't last out a match."

Still, she was impressive on a spring trip to Hilton Head Island, S.C., going unbeaten against different levels of competition. A sprained ankle the night before the team left forced O'Meally to miss two matches, and she was hampered by the injury the remainder of the season.

For the year, O'Meally, a 5-foot-8 right-hander, won all but two of 16 matches, one of the losses coming to eventual No. 1 champion Angie McIlwaine of Howard in the semifinals of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.

The best parts of her game are a strong serve and forehand. "She hits the ball as hard as some of the top pros," Frazier added.

How far will it take her?

"I don't have an idea of how far I can go," O'Meally said, "but I want to work at it. I want to go as far as it can take me. It won't be easy, though. It takes money, effort and time."

Frazier, who was Morgan State's best tennis prospect since Koger and Bonnie Logan were playing in the early 1970s, said: "I can only take her so far. If it turns out she is that good -- and I think she is -- I'll be glad to turn her over to another coach. Here, our goal is to get her an education."

The presence of O'Meally, sophomore Miranda Wright, back at full strength after an injury-plagued year, and freshman Krystal Jones from West Palm Beach, Fla. gives Morgan State the nucleus of a solid team.

"Right now, tennis is our fastest-growing sport," athletic director Leonard Braxton said. "There's a big difference between where we were a year and a half ago and where we are now. I believe it is systematic of the recent total growth in our athletic department."

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