Prangley's driven to succeed Large incentive: The Atholton tennis player wants to cash in on her father's promise to buy her a car if she gets a full scholarship.

April 28, 1996|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Whether on the tennis court, in the classroom or thinking about her future, Atholton sophomore Karen Prangley has a strategy to accomplish what she wants.

"She is very mature, very focused," said Greg Dubac, her tennis coach at Atholton.

With a 3.86 GPA, an 1,100 SAT score and a smashing forehand, she's got the tools to build a bright future.

Prangley, the top girls tennis player in the county, has been redistricted to River Hill next fall. But she won't stay long.

She's skipping her junior year.

By taking senior English next year, Prangley will have enough credits to graduate. She didn't want to "waste" a year just for one credit.

"I think I'm ready academically and have the maturity for college," said Prangley, who doesn't know her major but plans to attend graduate school. "And I'm ready to play college tennis."

She also plans to have her own car at college.

"My dad has always promised that if I got a full scholarship he would buy me a car," said Prangley, who turned 16 last week.

She likes the Chevrolet Tahoe, a sport-utility vehicle.

"She would definitely be in contention for a Division I scholarship, depending on what college she's looking at," said her private tennis coach, Danny Cantwell, who won the ACC championship in 1990 while at Maryland. "She's definitely got the potential."

When Prangley was 9, her parents, Greg and Joy, built a tennis court in the backyard. She and her brother, Josh, now a freshman at Maryland, got hooked.

"I caught on really fast," Prangley said. "It didn't take me long to learn the shots. I just wanted to hit the ball as hard as I could. I wanted to have that power."

Prangley made the Middle Atlantic (Md., Va., D.C., W.Va.) top 10 in the 12-and-under division. As an eighth-grader at Clarksville Middle, she reached the top 5 in the 14-and-under division and began going to national tournaments.

Her freshman year at Atholton became special when she and Josh teamed up in mixed doubles. They went undefeated and became the first brother-sister combination to win a state title.

"He always wanted a chance to win a county, region or state title," Prangley said of her brother. "I thought I'd play with him and we'd have a chance to do well. I did it for him. Just to see his smile after it was done was one of the coolest things."

Prangley, whose practice schedule includes one private lesson and three clinics a week at the Aspen Hill Club in Montgomery County, plays singles and doubles this season and is undefeated. She plans to play singles in postseason tournaments.

How good is Prangley?

"She's probably better than most of the boys in the county," Dubac said. "She's a seasoned player. She has a complete game."

That includes power.

"I've never hit with a girl that hits this hard," Dubac said.

"I'm a maniac out there and hit it very hard. She hits it harder than I do."

For Prangley, ranked No. 4 in the Middle Atlantic in the 16-and-under division, tennis has become more mental than physical. That plays into her strength.

"Her ability to understand how to play a tennis match has improved," said Cantwell. "She's really determined. She's a fighter. She's been brought up with a lot of discipline, and that helps her in tennis."

Her parents never pushed her to play, Prangley said. They have, however, insisted on good grades.

"My mom [a high school valedictorian] and dad have always told me that grades came first and tennis second," said Prangley, who has no thoughts of turning professional.

To her credit, Prangley manages to juggle a busy schedule, play at a highly competitive level and be down-to-earth at the same time.

"She's not only a good tennis player but a well-rounded person," said Cantwell. "She's able to have fun and do really well in school and tennis. She's very mature for her age."

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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