North Hills sophomore making music on, off tennis court

Saturday, October 21, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The first word that North Hills tennis coach Amy Myers uses to describe Ellie Kim is “composed.” And that certainly is an important attribute for the various activities that Kim has going on in her life, and will have going on in the future.

The Indians’ sophomore is a standout on the tennis court, reaching the WPIAL Class 3A postseason in her first two years as a high schooler.

“When she came in as a freshman, I knew she was incredibly talented,” Myers said. “She put in a lot of work. But I’ve never met a player as composed as Ellie. She’s played some of the toughest competitors I’ve ever seen, and was able to compete with them.”

Kim put in plenty of work in the offseason between her freshman and sophomore seasons, playing with and against players from around the region — including some who she would go on to face in WPIAL competitions this fall. Because of that progress, Myers named Kim a team captain as only a sophomore.

“It’s her leadership,” Myers said. “She’s always there for the other players even though we know that her skill level is a little more elite at the moment. Her improvements over one year were incredible.”

“It was really fun during the summer,” added Kim, who is tasked with starting practices and getting the team through stretches, while also assisting in other leadership roles. “We had a bunch of clinics that I helped run in the summer. But the team has really good teamwork and we all kind of enjoy ourselves. So it wasn’t super stressful.”

As a freshman, Kim reached the WPIAL tournament in singles and doubles. She finished third in Section 2-3A, and was seeded 14th in the district singles postseason. A year later, another third-place section finish resulted in a higher ranking in the WPIAL playoffs. She was seeded 10th, and took down Franklin Regional senior Ellen Liu, 10-3, to reach the quarterfinals.

“Getting the win, I just felt proud because it was better than last year,” she said. “I was proud that I improved.”

Kim then fell in a hard-fought match to Pine-Richland freshman and No. 2 seed Caroline Prisk, 10-5.

“She really showed herself,” Myers said. “She showed people who Elli Kim is. And then she stayed and showed support to everyone else competing. She’s just an overall great kid.”

Myers has been impressed with the development of Kim’s serves, and often asks Kim to instruct her teammates on how to better themselves from the line. But Kim sees areas of her game to develop before her junior year.

“I definitely want to improve my volleys and improve my power in general,” she said. “I want to hit harder.”

Tennis is a family game for Kim. Her brother, Josh, is North Hills’ top male player, and the two siblings have a friendly rivalry on the court that Myers enjoys watching. Both of her parents played in high school. Her sister played tennis at North Hills, as well. The cool demeanor of her game is something that comes directly from her family.

“That’s probably my mom,” said Kim, who picked up a racket at 5 years old and began training at 9, with a laugh. “She’s pretty on me about sportsmanship, and I always want to give credit to the other player, even during the match.”

Off the court, that calmness is beneficial. Kim has been playing cello since she was 8 years old and currently performs with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra. That adds a lot to an already full plate of activities that includes FBLA club, science club and other activities and fairs that Kim helps run.

“It’s a lot of time management,” she said. “I have to be really proactive about everything that I do and I try to be the best at everything that I do. It just takes a lot of time, but my parents help me a lot with that.”

Kim wants to pursue a career in engineering, and will eventually make her college choices based on that. An excellent student, she wants to continue playing music and tennis in some capacity while in college, which is still a little ways away for the sophomore.

But before that point comes, she wants to continue embracing her high school years with her friends at North Hills, who have benefitted from an improved playing surface put in by the school district last year. That $549,000 project has led to more involvement within the program, and Kim hopes that results in brighter days for the program as a whole.

“It will be sad because we have a couple of seniors graduating this year, but it was good to get some underclassmen out and playing on the team,” Kim said. “I’m hoping that next year will be even better.”


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