By Dave Dyer
---- — ANDOVER — The summer tennis season is upon us, the time when the elite players are busy with lessons, clinics, spending countless hours at a country club and hitting the USTA tournament scene.
It’s a busy time of the year, when the top players refine their game and become even better.
But it’s not for Andover High junior Samantha Camilo, who has been the No. 1 singles player for the MVC champion Golden Warriors the last two years.
“She has kind of eschewed the traditional methods of player development,” said Andover coach Alan Hibino, whose team was 19-2 this spring.
“She doesn’t really belong to a club. She occasionally works with a private coach in the off-season, but mostly is a self-made player. She is a tireless worker and a fierce competitor. She’s done it on her own.”
She’s certainly done an impressive job on her own. She was named the MVC Player of the Year this spring and she only lost three matches — twice to the top player from powerhouse Lincoln-Sudbury and once to the No. 4 seed in the individual state tournament.
In the MVC, Camilo made mincemeat of the competition, winning every match in straight sets with rarely a challenge.
Camilo does have a long history in tennis. She started playing when she was 4, she took lessons, she played for the Cedardale team for several years and she played in USTA tournaments up until she was 12.
And then it became too much.
“I just got sick of it all,” said Camilo. “I wanted to cut back. ... I stopped the (USTA) tournaments and I don’t play in the fall. I do take lessons at Cedardale in the winter, but that’s about it.”
Instead, Camilo is active in other areas. She plays field hockey in the fall, works in downtown Andover off and on year-round and focuses more on her academics.
Once the high school season arrives, however, Camilo is fresh and hungry for the competition.
“I love playing tennis but it’s so much better in high school with all the support you get,” she said. “One of the reasons I stopped USTA tournaments is that you’re alone. It’s not as much fun.”
Hibino understands that and appreciates that Camilo is well-rounded, but he’d like to see her on the courts a little more in the offseason.
“(Not playing in USTA tournaments) would be the equivalent of the MVC basketball Player of the Year not playing AAU basketball,” said Hibino. “She has the talent. I am confident, if she did, she would be highly ranked in New England and a much sought-after recruited college athlete.”
Camilo, who is currently off the courts completely resting a minor elbow injury, is ready to compete more in the summer.
“I know the (USTA) tournaments are helpful and I’m going to try playing more to get ready for next year,” she said. “It’ll make me a better player.”
With what she’s accomplished already, it’s bound to.