FRONT ROYAL -- Kayle Taylor didn’t play in the starting lineup much at all on Skyline’s girls tennis squad her first two years, but she did play exhibition matches for the Hawks and that playing time proved valuable.
The experience she gained from the exhibition matches have paid off the last two years when Taylor has found herself at the top of Skyline’s lineup. She played at No. 2 singles last season and is No. 1 this season.
Skyline coach John Natalie said that he was confident Taylor would be all right playing at the top of the lineup last season after seeing her play in the postseason as a sophomore. Taylor’s first singles match in the starting lineup came against Riverside in the regional tournament her sophomore year due to a few starters being out.
“She played well for jumping into your top 6 in a match at regionals,” Natalie said. “I think she had played at doubles competitively but I don’t think she had ever played in singles in a competitive match until I stuck her in that match at regionals. She didn’t win it but she fought hard and it was a good match.”
Taylor said her freshman season was the first time she had ever played tennis. She said that she had participated in track, but didn’t think it was the right sport for her and decided to give tennis a try.
She said as her freshman season went on she began to like it more and more.
“I was pretty nervous,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue this, but as we got later in the season I became really good friends with some girls. I just really enjoyed it. I really liked the independence of it.”
Taylor said it was definitely different going from not being in the starting lineup to playing at No. 2 singles last year.
“It was fun,” she said. “I enjoyed the actual competition, playing with people on my level and be able to get better. And to actually see what it’s like to play against someone good, not that other people are bad.”
Natalie said that she was close to playing at the No. 1 spot last year as the level between her and 2018 Skyline graduate Fallon O’Malley was equal.
Natalie said that Taylor’s demeanor helps her on the court.
“She’s always been very low key and she basically does her talking on the court,” Natalie said. “She doesn’t get too high or too low and very even-keeled. And I think that’s one of the things that’s served her well because she’s had matches when she was down at the lower end of the lineup, playing exhibitions, she was winning and having lots of success. And obviously it’s a lot tougher when you’re having to play the top part of the order like she has the last couple years., where she has less success than she used to.”
Natalie said that her racket-head speed and her quickness are big strengths of hers as well.
“She has the ability to get the racket around when hard shots come at her,” Natalie said. “She changes pace well with other people. She can hit it hard or if she senses that she’s playing someone, a lot of people playing No. 1 are used to getting hard shots, she’ll mix it up and hit some soft short balls just to see if they’re comfortable playing those shots or not. And if she has success she immediately picks up on that and keeps doing it until they prove they can handle it. So she picks up on things real quick.”
Playing at No. 1 this season has been another change for Taylor, but she said she’s getting used to it and embracing the challenge.
“It’s been fun,” Taylor said. “I am learning a lot when it comes to seeing myself as a player and what I need to work on compared to them. I’d just say it’s been fun and I guess I’ve learned more of what I need to improve on.”
Taylor said she also enjoys playing doubles. She said she’s played with several different players this year and Natalie said because of her versatility on the court she can play doubles with anyone and have success.
“I think it’s really fun,” Taylor said of playing doubles. “I enjoy playing with everyone on the team. They can throw me in with anyone and I feel like it would be a great game and a great experience for both of us. I enjoy doubles more than singles. Playing doubles is more fun for me.”
The Hawks have struggled to pick up wins this season, but Taylor said that her main goal for the team is just to keep improving.
“I’d just like to get a couple more wins in and overall just enjoy the season - no bickering or arguing or anything,” Taylor said. “I just want everyone to be positive and enjoy the season.”