Varsity Tennis Dominates at UIL

Photo contributed by ROHO Tennis
Junior Taylor Gray placed second at the District, Regionals and State UIL Tennis Competition.

Junior Taylor Gray had competed against the same girl at District, Regionals and then State.

Though she was up 3-0 in the beginning of the last set against senior Domonique Garley from Saginaw High School, the set finished with a score of 6-3. This left Taylor second out of the entire state in girls’ singles.

“I got really close at state,” Taylor said. “But this helps colleges realize who I am.”

Even though the tennis team had to cope with only one coach to handle everyone spread out over different courts at UIL, they were still successful at taking eight players to the Regional competition.

“When we lost coach Gillen, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” tennis coach Kyle Apperson said. “But it was successful because at District half the team made it to Regionals and then at Regionals, all eight of those kids won their first round match.”

Apperson said that in his seven years of being a tennis coach at Rider, he couldn’t remember everyone winning the first match like they did this year.

“In the past we have had more get to State, yes, but we have never had everybody win a first round,” Apperson said. “I thought that was pretty neat.”

Apperson moved up from assistant coach to head coach after first semester this year due to the previous head coach, Ryan Gillen, leaving.

“As the assistant coach, I didn’t have to worry about anything in the classroom I just came in here and coached the kids,” Apperson said. “Now I have to take on Gillen’s role of disciplinarian and I don’t really like that.”

Junior Jansen Rouillard, who placed fourth at Regionals, said the team surprised people with how far they made it despite only having one coach.

“It was stressful because [Gillen] left us in the middle of season,” Jansen said. “But we had a well qualified coach and in my opinion it worked out better for me.”

With only one coach, Jansen said it puts more responsibility on each player.

“We were all spread out over different courts and we didn’t always have a coach there,” Jansen said. “We were able to overcome that.”

Apperson said the whole team stepped up to the responsibility needed from them and “knocked it out of the park.”

“Everybody did what they needed to do because it was just me and they knew it,” Apperson said. “The second day at district all of them were playing and I told them I would get to them when I could and  they were like don’t worry about us, we will be okay. And all of them were.”

Jansen said that though on paper it looks as if the team has gone down in talent every year, they’ve managed to surprise people with how far they’ve gone.

“For me, I just really love my team,” Jansen said. “They always rise to the challenge and we never give up even when we play teams that are better than us.

Coach Apperson believes the school needs to hire a second coach for the team.

“Rider has always had two coaches,” Apperson said. “It’s needed.”

Along with Taylor’s and Jansen’s successes at State and Regionals, senior Austin Craig and sophomore Madeline Rowe placed third in mixed doubles at Regionals.

“Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose but we never give up,” Jansen said.