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By Travis Sloat

Justus Barley is a 17-year-old junior tennis standout for the Miami Wardogs, and she said there’s a very simple explanation for how she fell in love with the game.

“I started playing tennis my sophomore year, and then covid happened and the season got canceled,” Barley said. “But I played with my friends for fun during the summer, and that’s when I really fell in love with it. Most of our team are first year players, and since we didn’t get to play last year we are starting fresh and learning as we go. With the help of Coach Paxon, our morale is high and we’re hoping for a good finish.”

Barley is also a cheerleader and in band, and she said both of those coaches were influential in helping her step onto the court.

“My cheer coach Lindsey Bearden encouraged me to try tennis, and she always encourages me to do my best,” she said. “My band director Toye Harris is always flexible with my schedule and motivates me to do all the sports and activities for band. And Coach Paxon gave me the opportunity to play, try something new, and inspired me to do my best at tennis.”

Whether she’s cheering, playing tennis, or in the concert hall, Barley said she strives to be the same person: someone with character.

“To me, character means being true to yourself and how you act,” she said. “Having good character is doing your best and putting your best foot forward in any situation. It makes you who you are, and I try to display character on and off the field by having a nice attitude to everyone I meet, whether that be my opponents on the court or a person I see at Walmart.”

In her free time, Barley said she enjoys reading and hanging out with friends and family.

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