Mankato East’s 7th-grade prodigy helps turn program around

The Mankato East girls’ tennis team entered the year with plenty of familiar faces returning to its roster.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 8:49 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2022 at 8:53 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The Mankato East girls’ tennis team entered the year with plenty of familiar faces returning to its roster.

The only unknown came at No. 1 singles with seventh-grader Sam Williams taking over the starting job. Fast-forward to now, a couple of weeks away from the Big 9 conference tournament, Williams stands at 17-1 overall and is capable of competing with anyone.

“When I think about the age difference, I think there’s like no pressure, and it helps me stay loose, and they’re probably feeling the pressure,” Williams said.

Williams’ first taste of varsity tennis came in winning fashion against rival Mankato West in late August.

“I could just see there’s something different, and she had the most energy she could possibly have and the most competitiveness that she could have,” stated Paul Williams, Sam’s father and head coach of the Mankato East girls’ tennis team. “She was just really ready to go. That was fun to see and something I won’t forget.”

The picture-perfect debut set the tone for what turned into one of the best starts for a seventh-grade tennis player in Minnesota.

“It gave me lots of confidence after I beat West, so I just kind of used that for the rest of the matches and I just tried my best and it was okay if I didn’t win you know, I was just trying my best,” Sam Williams stated.

Williams’ size, quickness and racket head speed are all above average for her age. Plus, the young talent has already mastered the mental game of tennis.

“I would say when it gets close at the end, I feel like people sometimes tighten up and that can cause you to hit it out, and I just try to stay loose and focus on the next point, and even if you lose one point, it’s OK you’ve got the next one,” she explained.

The 10-4 Cougars own the second most wins in the conference. Head Coach Paul Williams credits the star as last year’s missing piece.

The seventh grader’s strong rookie season is why Williams is our Norsemen Trucking Prep Athlete of the Week.

Visit to nominate a deserving athlete for Prep Athlete of the Week.