Maria Frampton’s late exposure to high school tennis does not mean the 17-year-old junior from Whitefish lacks the experience or skills to handle the challenges ahead.
In her case, it’s just the opposite.
She’s more than ready, and prepared.
Frampton, currently the No. 27th ranked singles player for ages 18-and-under in the Intermountain District of the United States Tennis Association, already holds down the demanding No. 1 singles slot for Glacier.
She rolled through her first test on Friday, besting Flathead’s Delani Long 6-0, 6-1 in a crosstown matchup at Flathead Valley Community College.
“I’m excited about the season,” Frampton said last week.
“I’ve been waiting all year (for this).”
Frampton has been playing tennis since she was 8 years old.
“I always played individually, traveled to USTA tournaments with my family,” she said.
“Since I’m older, more individual (USTA travel) now.”
Her USTA journey took her to tournaments in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming as well as Montana.
But this is her first exposure to practicing and playing as a member of a high school team. And it was made possible this school year because she is splitting her educational duties between Whitefish Christian Academy and Glacier (she’s at the academy in the morning and Glacier in the afternoon).
“I have always been dedicated to that school,” she said of the academy.
“My freshman year I didn’t have the flexibility to leave. It’s only been this year that I had the flexibility (to do that).
“I didn’t just go to Glacier to play tennis, but there were classes there I couldn’t get at the Christian Academy,” she stressed.
“The school experience at Glacier has been awesome. Even if I wasn’t playing tennis, I would still continue taking classes (at Glacier).”
Frampton has known Glacier coach Josh Munro from her indoor sessions at The Summit, which is a big reason she’s playing for the Wolfpack.
“Two years ago, I would sit with the team, help them practice,” she said.
“I found a lot of good friends there.”
That also made the transition this year an easy one.
“This (being a member of Glacier’s team) has brought a whole new dynamic to tennis that I had been missing out on,” she said.
“Tennis has always been an individual sport for me, but I am enjoying the team aspect at Glacier, making new friends. It’s nice being able to play a sport I love with people who also like it.”
“Having an experienced tournament player is really nice to have,” Munro said.
“It brings up the level at practice for sure.
“She is ultra-competitive, which is really nice,” he continued.
“It’s one of those things where you can’t teach people to be competitive. Either they have the will, or they don’t.
“She’s always willing to adapt, to change, willing to try new things,” he added.
“She has a lot of tools and time on court. Now it’s just a matter of picking and choosing what to do with all of that.”
Frampton is a second degree black belt in karate, but the court game is what pulls the most weight with her sporting choices.
“Tennis is my main passion, what I want to focus on for college,” she said.
“Pretty well,” she said of how she rates her game.
“It’s a work in progress right now.”
The one element of high school season she is most excited about is matches ... plenty of them.
“The more matches the better,” she said.
And the daily practice routine will also help.
“Related to tennis practicing with the team, I’m able to work on my own individual game as well as help others work on theirs,” she said.
“I’m hoping to get to state and see what happens there. Just trying to keep an open mind right now. State is definitely the goal.”
In addition to playing at The Summit, Frampton also spent weekends in Missoula playing. She was exposed to two talented coaches in Jimmy Cripe and Jan Steenekamp at those venues.
“A lot of exposure to lots of types of tennis,” she said.
“I’ve had different hitting partners, experiences on the court. I may not play competitive tennis year-round, but I try to find other people to hit with, a good variety.”
The Frampton family has an outdoor court at their Whitefish residence. Her father Sean play collegiately at the University of Montana and her two younger brothers also play.
“Always been guiding me through my tennis journey and my biggest fan,” she said of her father.
Her mother played college basketball for one season.
“Strengths as a singles player — my ground strokes,” she said.
“And I think my knowledge about the game, in general. Not so much the physical, but the mental aspects of it is a strength. That gives me an advantage.
“I feel like I’m not unbeatable, but I always put up a challenge. There is always more to work on, always something more to learn like refining skills and my mental aspects of the game.
“It’s been a long process,” she added.
“I’ve enjoyed the journey. I’m looking forward to how much I can accomplish.”
Munro feels Frampton has a legitimate shot at winning a state singles championship in mid-May at FVCC.
“She has played the top three girls (in Class AA) the last couple years and beat them at some point,” Munro said.
“She has good (court) coverage, has a good forehand. If you are on the other side of the net from her, you better not leave a ball short or hit it deep. She can finish a point.”