Working hard and striving to achieve her goals is just part of what Tarboro Lady Vikings tennis star Julie Hayes works towards. She has accomplished her goals during the last two years on the tennis court and is striving to accomplish more this year.
Hayes, who is the Vikings No. 1 seed on the team, recently won her second straight Eastern Plains Conference singles title.
Hayes said it was important to her that she won the conference title for the second consecutive year, but it wasn't as easy to win this year as it was last year.
"It was more competition in the conference this year," Hayes said. "It was different because of the level of competition that I was facing. It was fun though."
Hayes is looking for another title to add to her collection this weekend when she travels to Cary to play in the individual NCHSAA 2-A state tournament.
One of Hayes' goals coming into the season was to make it to the state individual tournament again this year. Now that she has accomplished that, she has another one set, which is making it past the first round of the tournament.
"I haven't advanced past the first round yet and I want to accomplish that this year," Hayes said. "I have put in a lot of practice to get better."
Hayes has added several weapons to her game this year. She has improved her forehand stroke and has added some specialty shots.
She wanted to add the specialty shots as a weapon, so when she faces a tough opponent she can mix up her game and not just play from the baseline. Now she can play more at the net and use her weapons to win points that she wasn't able to win last year.
Hayes said she has always liked tennis and it is important to her to just work really hard to try and get good at it.
Vikings head coach Justin Smith is impressed with Hayes ability to put her opponents away. She has lost only two matches this season.
"Julie means a lot to our program because she is a leader on the court for us," Smith said. "Everyone looks to her for guidance because she has a lot of experience. She is a great senior leader."
Smith and Hayes' teammates expect her to go out and win her matches every time she steps on the court. She is a pace setter for the Vikings and leads by example. Hayes is a quite leader on the court and her teammates seem to follow her footsteps most of the time.
"Everyone on the team looks at Julie and wants to have the success she has had," Smith said. "She drives our team with her leadership and the others follow her."
Through her work ethic and her talent on the court, Hayes' teammates fell in behind her and followed the examples that she was demonstrating each and everyday at practice and during her matches.
"She works to make herself better everyday," Smith said. "The team just follows her very easily."
Hayes has played above Smith's expectations of her this year. She has only lost two matches this season and has dominated her opponents on the court. Hayes lost only once during conference play this year.
Hayes credits her hard work on the court that is paying off for her now as just part of the accomplishment.
She said it really means a lot to her that she qualified to play in the individual state tournament this weekend.
"I have really worked hard this season to get to this point again," Hayes said. "This is my second time doing it as a singles player. It is important for me to continue to work hard on my game."
When Hayes won the conference tournament, she played what Smith thought, was her best tennis of the year. She breezed through the tournament and wasn't challenged at all. Hayes' performance during the conference tournament has carried over into the playoffs.
Smith has high expectations of Hayes this weekend when she competes in the state tournament. He wants to see her go out and battle and play her style of tennis.
Smith and Hayes both know that she will be competing against the best players in the state, but Smith knows Hayes has the skills to compete on the highest level and he is hoping she continues to play like she did in the conference tournament.