Flores making noise nationally

Age is just a number to Fort Dodge’s Vicky Flores.

Despite being at a disadvantage from an experience standpoint, the local teen tennis sensation continues to make quite a name for herself on the national scene.

This past weekend, the 14-year old Flores earned the crowning achievement of her young career by taking top honors in the women’s singles division of the Missouri Valley U.S. Open sectional qualifier at the Homestead Country Club in Prairie Village, Kan.

Flores, who defeated University of Idaho senior-to-be Victoria Lozano in the tournament finals by scores of 6-4 and 6-3, now advances to the U.S. Open national qualifier Aug. 16-19 at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. That event will feature the top 13 winners or top available finishers from the U.S. Open sectional qualifiers held throughout the country.

With a victory in the U.S. Open national playoffs, Flores would punch a ticket to the qualifying tournament on Aug. 20-23 with a chance to secure a spot in the main draw of the prestigious 2013 U.S. Open.

All of this before even setting foot on a high school campus.

“I’ve never even really thought about (playing in the U.S. Open) this year, so that would be crazy, but it’s always been my dream and would mean the world to me,” said Flores, who is currently ranked 26th nationally. “I’ve been playing pretty well lately and don’t feel pressured. I’ve just been trying to do my best, and I’ve improved a lot since last year thanks to my coaches and parents.”

Earlier this summer, Flores added more hardware with 16U titles at the Super 2 (Omaha, Neb.) and Sweet 16 (Kansas City, Mo.) junior events. She prevailed over recent FDSH Class 2A state singles gold-medalist Jaci Cochrane in the Super 2 championship, while knocking off Caitlin Calkins of Tulsa, Okla. in the Sweet 16 finals.

Flores previously claimed a triumph at the Sweet 16 12U girls singles in 2010.

Last year, she won the Mike Agassi G16 No Quit regionals tournament in Las Vegas, along with the National Open G14 singles and doubles division in Dayton, Ohio.

“I knew when (Vicky) was four and a half or five years old she was really going to be good, but I never imagined anything like this,” said Vicky’s dad, Manny Flores of Fort Dodge. “I knew she could be good in sectionals, which are the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, to compete with the best in America – it’s been amazing to watch.

“Vicky just turned 14 in April, so (the U.S. Open sectional qualifer) was her very first non-junior tournament. I really had no idea what to expect from her against that level of competition.”

So what is the key to all of Vicky’s individual success?

“No. 1, she’s good at reading the ball and anticipating where it’s going to go,” Manny said. “She’s just very smooth and well-coordinated. Even though she’s so light, she can generate so much power. She’s very consistent at getting the ball back and drawing some errors (from the opponents).

“She’s not even in high school yet, but she’s already got (colleges)?recruiting) her. Sometimes I’m a nervous wreck, but she’s a really good fighter and very mature for her age.”

Vicky’s mother is Mary Ann, and her brother, Andre, is a junior-to-be at Fort Dodge Senior High.