News: JB MDL tennis champion woos courts here, abroad
Story by Airman Sean Crowe
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - Competition in the world of tennis is not limited to the local area or just the Air Force community for one 2012 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate stationed here.
2nd Lt. Tahlia Smoke, 305th Maintenance Squadron Accessories Flight commander, has maintained a winning record on the tennis courts from an early age.
“I started playing tennis at the age of 10,” said Smoke. “My first award was when I won the singles and doubles at the Rolex New Jersey State Tournaments for 10 and under.”
Driven by a passion to not be outdone by her brother, Jarrad, a 2010 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Smoke took tennis with one goal in mind: to beat her brother.
“My brother started playing a year before me and I always wanted to be like him and so when he started playing tennis, I wanted to play tennis,” said Smoke. “I wanted to be better than him, that was my life goal, to beat him; I haven’t done it yet, but it’s coming.”
The Belmar, N.J, resident, began her domination on the tennis court prior to attending the Academy.
Smoke finished with a perfect season compiling a 30-0 record in her senior year at Manasquan High School and finished her four years at the school with a 110-10 record. Her high school accomplishments include winning the New Jersey State Singles Championship as a senior and leading the Warriors her high school’s tennis team to their third sectional title in four years.
Smokes’ first choice for college was the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.
“I was recruited by my older brother to attend the Naval Academy, but all it took was one visit to the Air Force Academy and I fell in love with the mountains and the tennis courts,” said Smoke.
All cadets at the Academy are mandated to participate in some form of athletic sports, so Smoke joined the Academy’s tennis team, the Falcons.
“We would spend three to four hours daily either working out or playing tennis,” said Smoke. “That jump to ‘this is not just a sport anymore but a part of your job’ was hard.”
Smoke accomplished something no Falcons player had done before while in her sophomore year at the Academy. She received a national Division One singles ranking and was 102nd in the first ranking of the spring season.
Smoke received orders assigning her to the 305th MXS, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., when she graduated from the Academy in May, 2012.
Smoke was selected to represent the U.S. Air Force at the Women’s Tennis Championship for the Inter-Nation Sports Championship Program in September 2012, held at Royal Air Force Lawn Tennis Center, Royal Air Force Halton, England.
Smoke dominated at the tournament, going undefeated in four matches while playing both singles and doubles. Her direct efforts lead to the team winning its third consecutive championship.
The RAF Halton-Ramstein Tennis Tournament was held at Halton RAF base, England, and a total of six teams competed: the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Belgium and the United States.
“The women’s team played were from Poland, Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands,” said Smoke.
Smokes’ outstanding performance led to her selection as the tournament’s most valuable female player. Members from the other countries selected her for this honor. Smoke also received a plaque for Best Overall Award from the Polish Air Force, an award to the player who best represented the tournaments ideal of competitive excellence, sportsmanship and camaraderie.
“Nothing can prepare you in training like having a goal,” said Smoke. “Like in tennis, I set a goal to win. Setting goals and working to achieve them has helped me in the military.”
Smoke continues to practice her tennis skill and provides training for others when not working.