OT 2023 Girls Tennis Player of the Year: Ella Grace Buckman

July 11, 2023 | 12:02 am

Updated July 11, 2023 | 4:00 am

After a strong senior season in which she earned All-State honors for the first time, Owensboro Catholic’s Ella Grace Buckman has also been named the Owensboro Times 2023 Girls Tennis Player of the Year.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this award, especially as I finish my senior season,” Buckman said. It holds great significance for me and serves as a testament to all the people that were involved in this tennis journey with me.”

Buckman was nervous about transitioning from singles to doubles coming into the season, but embraced the challenge and focused on improving her net play. Knowing that it was a part of her game she initially struggled with, focusing on enjoying her final year with Owensboro Catholic was also at the forefront of her mind all season.

“My main goal for my senior season was to have fun, and I can confidently say that I achieved that goal,” Buckman said. “I learned that enjoying the game contributes to success. My doubles partner, Elizabeth, and I always brought high energy to the court.”

Her year added onto an impressive family resume, combining with her brothers and Owensboro Catholic alum Josh, Caleb and Aaron to amass 14 Regional Finals appearances and 11 Regional Championships.

Having grown up watching her brothers compete under the tutelage of Head Coach Noel Clayton, she has learned a lot from her family and her tennis family.

“Growing up in a tennis family has been a blessing, as it has provided us with countless memories,” Buckman said. “Watching my brothers play at such a high level inspired me to follow in their footsteps. Coach Noel Clayton and my dad, in particular, taught me the fundamentals of tennis and they both instilled in me the values of integrity and sportsmanship.”

Ella also credits her dad for helping her change her mindset on the court, emphasizing the importance of sportsmanship and kindness both on and off the court.

“Over time, I realized that winning matches is not the sole measure of success; it’s the graceful attitude that defines a good player,” Buckman said. “Whether I win or lose, I always strive to maintain a positive outlook because, in the end, it’s just a game.”

And obviously she couldn’t have done it herself, as Buckman is thankful for the countless teammates that she’s become friends with—most importantly her doubles partner Elizabeth Hayden.

“The bond I formed with my teammates is what I will cherish the most,” Buckman said. “They have been incredibly supportive and have become some of my closest friends over the years. Elizabeth Hayden, my doubles partner, was undoubtedly the best partner I could have asked for. Our season was an absolute blast, and I will forever cherish the pre-match prayers we shared, which made our bond even more special.”

As for her future plans, Ella will be attending the University of Kentucky in the fall. She is considering playing for the club tennis team, but as of now she is enjoying playing lots of pickleball.

And while she’s excited for her next step, Buckman will miss Owensboro Catholic tennis and the many memories she’s made along the way.

“Some of my favorite memories with Owensboro Catholic tennis include the bus rides and early mornings in the freezing cold,” Buckman said. “These moments brought us closer as a team and created lasting memories. I have been at these Moreland tennis courts watching my older brothers play since I was two years old. Our entire family will miss Owensboro Catholic tennis dearly.”

Buckman said that Owensboro Catholic tennis means the world to her and has taught her the value of teamwork in the midst of a talented program. Ella said that she was blessed to have such amazing coaches and teammates at Owensboro Catholic that have helped her thrive during the course of her career.

“I would like to express my gratitude to all the parents, siblings, coaches, and teammates who have been my biggest supporters and have brought me immense joy throughout my tennis journey,” Buckman said. “A special thank you to Coach Noel Clayton for being an exceptional coach at Owensboro Catholic and for building a program of excellence that feels like family.”

July 11, 2023 | 12:02 am

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