WARREN_RICH

Warren County’s Aimee Rich returns a volley during a recent practice. Rich is playing at No. 1 singles this season for the Wildcats.

FRONT ROYAL — When she was an eighth-grader Aimee Rich looked up to Warren County girls tennis standout and 2016 graduate Jayme Goode. Now three years later, Rich is playing in Goode’s spot and trying to be a role model for younger players as well.

The junior moved to Warren County’s No. 1 singles spot this season and said she modeled some of her game off of Goode’s.

“I ended up using a lot of her techniques to get myself on the (tennis) ladder my freshman year,” Rich said. “I just remember watching her and being like ‘wow.’ I wanted to be like her a lot.”

One if Rich’s strengths on the court is her mental game. She said that she isn’t the most athletic so she has to use her intelligence and mental strength to beat opponents. Rich said she loves the mental aspect of the game.

“When you get down, it’s really hard to pick yourself back up because you’re down already,” she said. “And it’s hard to come back from something like that but you got to remember that every point is only worth one. So really it’s never as bad as it seems. If you’re up by a lot it’s never as good as you think it is. You always got to stay focused. You got to stay in that zone that people like to describe a lot.”

Rich said she started playing the sport in eighth grade to have a sport to play and has fallen in love with the game.

Her freshman year she played at No. 6 singles for the Wildcats.

“There were definitely some challenges, being the first year on the ladder,” Rich said. “I felt a lot of pressure and I would often psych myself out a lot. I still struggle with that sometimes.”

Last year Rich moved up to the No. 2 singles spot and said that presented an even bigger challenge, but one that she enjoyed. She said she was happy to be able to move up to that spot.

“I knew that I had improved a lot my freshman year to sophomore year,” Rich said. “And I was going to have to try pretty hard to work my way up the ladder. And when I finally nailed that spot it was a great feeling. I was so proud.”

Rich said she likes to hit the ball with power, but also mix in some finesse shots as well. She likes to use slice and drop shots to keep her opponents off balance.

Over the last year, Rich said she has gone to clinics at the Winchester Country Club and sometimes does summer camps there as well. She said playing against other players has helped her improve her game.

This season Rich is playing at No. 1 and she said it’s been fun being at the top spot and playing against strong competition.

Warren County first-year coach Melissa Behanna said that Rich has handled playing at the top spot really well.

“She’s stepped right into it and was ready to go,” Behanna said. “She’s kept that spot. We have girls working up who want to challenge up, which is really great. I think it’s great with the girls competing against one another — but she’s held through.”

Rich said she also enjoys playing doubles. She’s teamed up with senior Leslie Richards this season at the top of the doubles lineup.

“I love doubles, I used to hate it,” Rich said. “But when you get used to being up at net and working with another person, you get a good connection with your doubles partner, it turns out to be really fun. It’s a lot faster pace than a singles match is. So that’s pretty thrilling you could say.”

Behanna said Rich is a good leader for the team, especially some of the younger players.

“She’s just an overall really great kid,” Behanna said. “She’s academically inclined. She’s a wonderful player. She’s just so willing to take these other girls under her wing and she does a really great job helping them figure out what they’re trying to do.”

The young Wildcats’ squad has struggled early in the season, but Rich said she’s seen a lot of improvement from the young players, many of whom had never played tennis before this season.

Rich said her main goal for the team is to keep working hard and keep improving.

“We haven’t won yet and I’m really hoping that we can get one of those in,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of improvement from the younger people. So I’m hoping that they can get their skill levels up. Then we’ll see some movement around the ladder — that’s always exciting.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com