JB MDL tennis champion woos courts here, abroad

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
Story by Airman Sean Crowe

Date: 11.21.2012
Posted: 11.21.2012 15:38
News ID: 98247
JB MDL tennis champion woos courts here, abroad

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.<br /> <br /> 2nd Lt. Tahlia Smoke, 305th Maintenance Squadron Accessories Flight commander, has maintained a winning record on the tennis courts from an early age.<br /> <br /> “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.” <br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> “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.”<br /> <br /> The Belmar, N.J, resident, began her domination on the tennis court prior to attending the Academy. <br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> Smokes’ first choice for college was the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. <br /> <br /> “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. <br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> “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.”<br /> <br /> 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. <br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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. <br /> <br /> 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. <br /> <br /> “The women’s team played were from Poland, Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands,” said Smoke.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> “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.”<br /> <br /> Smoke continues to practice her tennis skill and provides training for others when not working.