Tennis is a fine arrangement between Bay's Hayes and her father
He coaches her in her senior year
What started years ago as basement playtime with dad tossing balloons to his 5-year-old daughter so she could whack them with an over-sized tennis racket ended on a melancholy but not totally unhappy note in the WIAA State Individual Tournament the weekend of Oct. 17-19.
Mike Hayes just concluded his first season as head coach of the Whitefish Bay girls tennis program while his daughter, Lily, finishing up a sensational four-year career with her third straight fourth-place singles finish for the Blue Dukes.
Dad said Lily got what he felt was "strong support from her teammates, parents and friends" in this final effort.
The final moments of competitive tennis at Nielsen Stadium in Madison were not awkward at all for Lily, who says she can remember clearly those moments in the basement, laughing and having fun with her dad.
"He had been an assistant for two years before that so I was used to him coming out on the court (and talking strategy)," she said of her father. "We always played tennis together so I was used to it and I always liked it.
"He's always been so supportive of whatever I chose to do. It was a nice way to end things out there (in tennis) with him coaching during such an exciting season."
Balancing team, daughter
Mike walked the tightrope of coaching his daughter and his team with fine balance, assiduously looking not to highlight her too much in his eloquent weekly write-ups but always giving her credit when credit was due.
He had reason to be understandably proud, noting that through the last 15 years, Lily is just one of seven players who have made the semifinals in three or more years. She and just one other of the seven have not won state individual titles in that time, but that was due more to the rarefied talent level than anything else.
Lily Hayes is famous for getting along with everybody on the girls tennis circuit and is great pals with her biggest personal roadblock to success, Elizabeth Konon of North Shore rival Homestead. Konon won state singles titles in 2011 and 2012 and lost in the finals this year after one last epic semifinal win over Hayes.
"You wind up playing these girls so many times in tournaments and in the summer that you can't help but wind up friends," Lily said. "Elizabeth is such a nice girl and she deserved to win, but Lexi (Keberle, the powerhouse freshman from West Bend East who appears destined for greatness) works just so hard and is so athletic.
"...We're all competitive with one another, but in the end we all know it doesn't matter who wins or who loses."
Especially among friends and especially if you're someone like Hayes, who has more than one sporting outlet. In fact, the night of this particular conversation was the first night where she didn't have an athletic commitment since she could remember.
Part of that is due to the fact that she's been competing successfully on the club level in gymnastics since she was 5, switching over to La Fleur's in Germantown about a year ago.
Since gymnastics is not on her radar in college, she intends to go out for the powerhouse Whitefish Bay high school team, which is a perennial WIAA Division 2 State Meet favorite. It's almost a certainty that legendary Blue Dukes coach Mary Liniewski will welcome her with open arms.
Successful track career
Then come spring she will head back to the pole vault pit for the track team one more time. She didn't go out for it her freshman year but started her sophomore year under assistant coach Paul Tilleman and was an instant success. She earned WIAA state meet berths in the event in each of the last two seasons with a fine best height of 11 feet 6 inches to her credit, good for a sixth-place medal at state last spring.
"I found it to be like gymnastics in a way," the 5-2 Hayes said. "It's just so satisfying to clear a new height."
Curiously enough, when she makes that soon-to-happen collegiate choice, it looks like it'll be track that will win out as far as any future competitive sports go.
"For some reason, I just really like to pole vault," she said. "Tennis is a great sport, a life-long sport and I think I'll always be doing it but I think I know where my future is (in track)."
She would like to major in either medicine or engineering and is grateful for her time with the Bay tennis program.
"It's been as great journey," she said, "and to have had the honor of being the first singles player for the last three years has been a lot of responsibility, but I love the idea of rising to a challenge."
She will miss having her dad coach her, but takes great solace in the fact that like her, he has found another calling in life (he's also a successful lawyer).
"He (Mike) loves coaching so much and it's just great to see him get so excited about it," she said.
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