When Day Ray returned to coach Mountain Pointe boys’ tennis last season after a five-year hiatus, the Pride had been through a long skid without reaching the playoffs.
In 2017-18, he had fewer than 10 players on the roster, yet the Pride went 9-5. Mountain Pointe narrowly missed its first postseason berth since 2011.
Ray believes that this season the Pride can get over that hump even with their young roster.
Among the starting six players, none are seniors, giving Ray encouragement for the future. He senses renewed excitement and work ethic from players who have years of varsity play ahead.
“They’re really growing a lot, and a lot of the guys have played more in the off season than I thought they would, and they’re getting pretty solid,” Ray said.
Freshman Adryan Taylor is among those young players. In his debut varsity singles match, Taylor played No. 1 and, despite some nerves at first, he dispatched his opponent 6-1, 6-1.
Ray expected nothing less.
“He’s so mature, character-wise, and his tennis game is really well developed for his age,” Ray said. “I knew from doing freshman tennis in the fall with him that he was already going to be our No. 1 on varsity, he’s that talented.”
Years ago, Mountain Pointe was accustomed to championship-caliber play. Pride players appeared in five consecutive singles championship matches from 2005 to 2009, winning three. Geoff Embry claimed the title in 2006, and then Andy Nguyen hoisted the trophy in 2007 and again in 2009. Ray said Taylor’s play and work ethic remind him of those former champions, especially Nguyen.
“He’s right there on par with that level, so I’m really excited to see how he keeps developing,” Ray said.
Despite being a freshman, Taylor is the Pride’s most-experienced player, having played competitively for more than seven years.
Still, he defers to Mountain Pointe’s older leaders off the court: While he adds wins in singles and doubles play, he lets the junior captains do most of the talking.
“I try to push everyone to be better, keep everybody positive, but not be the ‘try-hard’ that annoys people,” Taylor said.
Taylor is motivated to make the individual and team playoffs, but he said he is more focused on growing as a player.
“I have high hopes, but I’m not going to put myself on a level where if I don’t make it I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life,” Taylor said. “I’m striving to be there, but whatever happens, happens.”
Mountain Pointe’s older, more-experienced players are hoping to break the eight-year playoff drought, as well. They’re taking pride in redeveloping the program, which went 0-13, 3-10 and 2-12 in the years before the current juniors were freshman.
Although the top six on varsity will be back next season, likely better with another year of experience, junior Zach Cortez said there is no better way to develop the program for the future than to make a postseason run now.
“Last year, we almost made the playoffs. We were just a spot away,” Cortez said. “This year, we’re hoping that we can. We’ve got a difficult schedule but we’re confident we can navigate it.
“Then, hopefully, that means more people come out to play with us next season and we get even better. We want to put Mountain Pointe tennis back on the map.”