By Mike Beas
History plays an undeniable role in the first name of the oldest of Mark and Suzanne Hess’s four children.
Each parent, it turns out, has a Mahala in their respective family lineages, the generations-ago common thread making the choice somewhat easy.
These days, Plainfield High School senior Mahala Hess is making a name for herself academically, as well as athletically, the latter as a member of the Quakers girls tennis program.
Hess, an outstanding student with a 4.55 grade point average, held a 6-4 record on the court entering Plainfield’s four-team tournament played April 29. She’s mostly played No. 2 singles this season, but had one competition at the top doubles spot.
She and her classmates didn’t get to experience a freshman tennis season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hess, one of nine seniors on this season’s Plainfield roster, has been both versatile and dependable in her three years in the Quakers’ lineup.
“This is Mahala’s third season of varsity, and she has played all four positions, with the exception of No. 1 singles,” said Quakers coach Keith Bradley, now in his 15th season. “Mahala is a quiet leader. Leading by example is probably her biggest strength.
“She’s a smart tennis player, finding her opponent’s weaknesses and then exploiting them during a match.”
Hess did a Q&A with ICON:
Q: Where do you currently play in the Plainfield lineup, and why do you like that spot?
A: Previously, I was playing No. 2 singles, but in the last match I played No. 1 doubles. I actually like where I’m at because it was kind of lonely playing by myself. I like having a partner (senior Sarah Buckner). Just celebrating points is so much fun when you have someone on the court with you.
Q: How old were you when you first started playing tennis, and what drew you to the sport?
A: I was in eighth grade, and my dad (Mark) taught me the basics. In middle school, coach (Brian) Planker taught me the correct form. I like tennis because there are so many fresh starts where it’s a new set or a new game. I also like how it can also be somewhat an individual sport as well as a team sport. That’s kind of how I am. Independent, but also like having people support me.
Q: What are your plans after graduating from Plainfield High School?
A: I’ll be attending Cedarville University in Ohio. As of right now, I’m just going to be a student, but I might try to walk onto their tennis team. I’m going to major in nursing. I just like helping people.