Shared from the 2017-07-01 The Daily Gazette eEdition

GIrlS’ tENNIS

Nine titles later, Burnt Hills’ Layton retires

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Karen Layton guided Burnt Hills girls’ tennis to nine sectional titles.

BURNT HILLS — Karen Layton is stepping away from the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake varsity girls’ tennis team with nine Section II championships.

Nine. That’s the same number of matches the Spartans played in her first season with the school, in 1998.

They didn’t win any.

“I remember leaving matches and not winning a game,” said Layton, who coached her final match last fall, and retired from teaching last month. “It took a while to build it up. It’s been pretty nice winning championships there.”

All of those sectional titles came in the second half of Layton’s 18-year run with tennis team. The mother of four children and grandmother of three also guided BH-BL field hockey and soccer teams.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Layton, who worked as a physical education teacher for 22 years at O’Rourke Middle School. “I love teaching and I love coaching, but it’s time to move on to other things I want to do. My husband is retired, too. I am looking forward it.”

Layton said she was looking to make a positive impact with the Burnt Hills tennis team, and over time, she did.

“It was a combination of things,” Layton said. “We had change the attitude of the team. We had to change the work ethic. Things clicked, but it didn’t come over night.”

Burnt Hills appeared in every Section II Class A championship match from 2006 through 2016, and of the nine victories, four came consecutively from 2006-09, and three came in a row from 2014-16.

“Another thing I preached was to work as a team,” Layton said. “When a girl was done [playing], she was there to support the team. It’s another reason we did so well. They cared about each other. They worked together. Even though it’s an individual sport, you have to have that team element.”

Layton said playing against mostly Class AA teams as part of its Suburban Council schedule was a benefit to BH-BL come sectional time.

“We got used to that type of play, and when we went to Class A, that super competition helped us,” Layton said.

The Spartans also won sectional crowns in 2011 and 2012, and placed second in 2010 in 2013. Layton took the 2013 season off from coaching so she and her husband Jim could follow their youngest son Paul while he competed in his last collegiate football season at Temple. Paul, who earned Daily Gazette Offensive Player of the Year honors while at Burnt Hills, had transferred from the University at Albany.

“I wasn’t going to miss that,” Karen Layton said. “I’ll never regret doing that.”

Layton worked with many standout tennis players over the years, including Caitlin Crowley, Brittany Katz, Nicole Kellogg, Becky Sennett and sisters Hannah and Morgan Schrader. Katz and the Schrader sisters went to states.

“I had some great girls,” she said. “I had a great run. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Layton is hoping team competition someday becomes part of the state tournament schedule. Currently, only singles players and doubles tandems have an opportunity to compete beyond the sectional level.

“I had some teams that I believe could have fared well if they had the opportunity,” Layton said. “It would have been nice to see what they could have done. You’d like to have another chance.”

Layton grew up in Pennsylvania, and spent eight years teaching and coaching in the Jeannette City School District before moving to Burnt Hills. Her other children, Steve, Jessica and Lauren, also played sports at BH-BL and at the collegiate level.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter

Jim Schiltz at 395-3143, jims@dailygazette.com or @jim_ schiltz on Twitter.

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