The thoughts of pursuing tennis full-time, traveling more often and not doing so much makeup work were appealing to Kuse. Plus, she wanted to see if the possibility of professional tennis was in the works.
She enjoyed the experience, and making more friends through tennis. In the end, though, she decided that being home-schooled and playing full-time tennis was a bit too isolated, and she still wanted to be a teenager while she had the chance.
“It was too much focus on tennis, and I had so many other interests,” Kuse said. “I love movies and TV. I love to read, and I love to write music.”
Kuse opted to return to the normal school life, and the possibility of being a part of the state’s most highly regarded tennis program made Walton her first choice.
And the fact that she already lived in east Cobb made it an easy choice.
Not only was Kuse an asset for the Lady Raiders in her first season, she strengthened an already powerful singles lineup as the new ace. Kuse went 14-2 at No. 1 to Walton defend its Class AAAAAA state championship.
For her contributions, Kuse is the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
While Kuse earned the top spot in Walton’s singles rotation, the position was far from secure, especially with an experienced No. 1 in Suzanne Zenoni playing right below her.
While Zenoni is arguably the more consistent player, Walton coach Christy Lewis said Kuse had the power groundstrokes to rattle premier players at the position.
“Bringing Bella in strengthened our singles even more than it was,” Lewis said. “We have top singles players all the way down. Instead of having 1 and 2 being super strong, 2 and 3 were all top-notch.”
Kuse’s nerves of playing with a new team got the best of her early, and she lost the first match she played.
But with the support of her teammates, Kuse shook off the jitters and didn’t lose another match until she faced Alpharetta’s Ellen Jang-Milsten in the state championship. And most of matches Kuse won in between losses were pivotal to Walton’s success.
Kuse was tested quite a bit early on, pulling out a close two-setter against Starr’s Mill in an early-season match. She was also in a battle against Woodstock’s Savannah Wood in an early Region 5AAAAAA match, but Kuse caught a break when Wood cramped up during a third-set tiebreak and had to retire.
The match that arguably secured Kuse’s elite position was grinding out a three-setter against Roswell’s Laura Patterson, a Georgia signee. Kuse needed three sets to win 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
After winning the first set against Patterson, Kuse said she got caught up in the moment and got overanxious in the second set, which resulted in errors.
But once Kuse started relaxing again in the third set and played more patiently, she got the result she wanted.
“At that point, I was like, ‘I’m not going to lose this,” Kuse said. “I wanted to win for my team. The win was more mental for me. Laura was getting frustrated (in the third set) and not hanging in there mentally.”
Another important win was for Kuse was clinching the final point against Kennesaw Mountain to put Walton back into the state finals. After going up 5-2 in the first set, Kuse never lost another game and won 6-2, 6-0 over Samantha Armas.
Although Kuse came up short against Jang-Milsten in the championship, Zenoni bailed her out with a three-set victory at No. 2, making Kuse glad she chose the right team to play on.
“My team was very supportive and cheered me up,” Kuse said of the championship loss.” It was awesome knowing you have the girls by your side. You expect to be this perfect player, but when I lost, they weren’t angry at all.”