Kaley Price knew this year was going to be more difficult than any other.
Her friends were gone. Her longtime teammates were gone. She knew that her last year at Nash Central would not be her best.
Price was the only returning player on a Bulldogs team that made the NCHSAA 3-A state championship last year, but a difficult year became even more so last Christmas morning.
Less than two months after winning the first state semifinal in Nash Central history, then-senior Randi Price heard a noise coming for her sister’s room. Her younger sister, Kaley, was having a seizure – the first of her life.
Kaley Price was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with epileptic seizures, something she had suffered from her entire life but had been misdiagnosed as a psychological disorder.
She thought of quitting tennis altogether in the following months.
Almost a year later, Price is the Bulldogs’ alltime leader in victories – singles and doubles – and a four-time state championship qualifier, another first in school history.
She’s also the All-Area Girls’ Tennis Player of the Year for the second time in her career.
“It was, for sure, a rough year for me,” Price said. “There were a lot of changes and a lot of new things. ... I’m really happy. I’m glad that everything worked out for the better. If I had just given up and not played, I would have been really disappointed in myself.”
Price had memory lapses in the past. She had blanked out during a test or a ride to school or tried to leave the house in the winter with summertime clothes on, but she never had a seizure before.
Around 7 a.m. Christmas morning, Randi Price’s scream brought Kaley’s parents, Randy and Wanda, rushing into her room, followed soon by her aunt, who is a nurse.
“It was the worst experience I’ve ever had,” said Wanda Price. “ ... It just made Christmas a whole lot different for us. It was just a blessing that we were all together.”
Kaley spent nearly a week at Duke recovering, but the experience of a Grand mal seizure, during which she separated her shoulder, alone changed her.
“She went through a tough time,” Wanda Price said. “... It really affected her.”
However, there always was tennis to fall back on for Price.
Although this was going to be a pressing year, tennis carried with it some great memories, both recent – a state championship appearance with her best friends – and in the past, when her father taught her and Randi, who is one year older, to play when the pair was just 10 years old.
Price didn’t have many goals this season, just demands. She was going to be required to be a second coach on the court, something Nash Central coach Susan McCarthy said that Price accomplished.
Price’s list of goals was short. She wanted to do well in conference, and she wanted to make the state tournament, which she did after a fourth-place finish a regionals despite nagging injuries to her knees and elbow.
“It’s kind of hard to add much of anything to her game,” McCarthy said. “She’s just a competitor. I did see that competitive spirit come into a lot of matches this year.”
Price said she doesn’t want to play varsity tennis in college. She instead will opt for an academically motivated choice and mix in a little intramural or club tennis to her class schedule.
This all will be near a beach if Price has her way.
While Price’s focus has shifted from her tennis career to her future, she knows the sport always will give her a connection to her friends, her sister and her father.
“I’m so glad that my dad took me out to play tennis for the first time,” Price said. “If it wasn’t for him, I never would have gotten into the sport.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com