Carleton took the PIAA District 1 Class AA singles title again after losing just one game, then stormed to the state Class AA singles title for a state-record third consecutive year on Nov. 4 at the Hershey Racquet Club.
For her achievements on the tennis court, the 5-foot-10 Carleton is The Inquirer's girls' tennis player of the year for Bucks and Montgomery Counties for the third consecutive season. Carleton's 19-0 record this season elevated her career record to 67-0.
While waiting for the cyst to heal, all Carleton could do was rest and watch her brothers -- Reid, 11, and Tripper, 9 - play in USTA Middle States tournaments. Reid is ranked No. 1 in Middle States in the 12-and-under category.
Carleton watched and learned, and became, she said, a better player for it.
"I think I got smarter as a player," Carleton said. "When I didn't play tennis for so long, I watched a lot of tennis. I would go to the club and watch my brothers play. I went to [Reid's] nationals and I became more of a student of the game. I tried to take in everything I could on it because I couldn't play.
"So it was the only thing I could do. I really think it was [a blessing in disguise]. I was playing so much tennis for so long, it kind of gave me a break. It put things back in a perspective. It made me so eager to play."
During the summer, Carleton injured the outside of her left foot. Cortisone shots and rest took care of that. When the cyst was discovered, more shots and needles were painful, but Carleton endured.
"At the beginning of the season, I didn't even know if I was going to play school matches, let alone states," she said. "I thought it was great [not to have to undergo surgery]. I was really happy when I didn't have to go through with the wrist surgery, because that would have kept me out for a while.
"And then even once I would had gotten the cast off, the doctor said I still would have needed rehab and it would have taken a while to build up to my old strength. So I was just happy to be out on the court and be competing. You kind of learn to not take things for granted when you're injured."
Carleton said the rehabilitation process was not as easy as it sounded.
"They tried to aspirate it, and that's with a shot and cortisone," she said of the cyst. "Then I just got a plain cortisone shot by itself. Then I tried to get it aspirated one last time with two needles at a time. After the last time, it would be so painful, I couldn't even do anything like brush my hair."
The wrist "was pretty weak because I hadn't done anything with it," she said. "After the last one, I waited about two weeks, then started hitting easy. I built up strength and went from there."
The wait was worth it. In the state tournament, Carleton, who likes to play from the baseline but is willing to mix in a serve-and-volley game when necessary, opened with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Jessica Swanderski of Burrell. In the quarterfinals, Carleton downed Christine Kansky of Crestwood, 6-1, 6-0. Grace Blakely of Wyomissing fell to Carleton in the semifinals, 6-1, 6-4. In the title match, Carleton beat Susan Pollack of Wyomissing, 6-1, 6-1.
"This is definitely the best [state title]," Carleton said. "My first one was exciting because it was the first time I ever did it. And then last year, I didn't really feel I played all that well in the finals.
"So I was happy and glad that I got the win for Jenkintown, but I wasn't that pleased with my performance. And then this year, first of all, I was just happy to be there, and then I think I played the best out at Hershey this year than I ever had before."
Carleton probably was as focused as she has ever been at this year's state tournament.
Jenkintown coach Joanne May says that Carleton, who also excels in the classroom, has grown as a player every year.
"She's always been very levelheaded, very mature for her age," May said. "Both on and off the court."
Carleton says she hopes to maintain that pattern of growth between her junior and senior years.
"It's different year-to-year because I keep improving," she said. "It hasn't really gotten harder, but it hasn't gotten easier. Each year is different. Each match is unto itself. Anything can happen in one match. You have to go out there thinking that and play hard and be prepared for everything."
Joe Fite's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org