Effingham’s Ryley Arend will be the first to tell you she didn’t have a good singles match Tuesday against Mt. Zion’s Allison Bradford at Effingham High School.
Arend’s numerous unforced errors had left her deflated. After winning the first set 6-4, she briefly went and spoke to her coach, Eric Williamson, during a break in play.
“It’s a mental sport more than anything,” he said. “It’s a grind. It can get to them. They can shrug their shoulders and wipe the sweat off their brow and be like ‘I’m good!’”
At 5-3, serving for match point, Arend sliced an ace down the center of the court, following by a winner near the doubles service line, winning the match 6-4, 6-3.
“I didn’t play as well as I expected to play,” she said. “I played down. I just played down.”
She said she plays up to better players.
“Whenever I play better opponents, I play better even if I lose,” Arend said. “Whenever I play someone lesser, my shots aren’t good.”
Bradford would return serve into the middle of the court almost as if lulling her to make mistakes.
“I’m trying to move her side to side to get her tired and she kept hitting it right back at me in the middle. It just got frustrating. I tried to hit one as hard as I can, and then it goes out,” she said. “I get mad, then sometimes Ill hit it and get lucky.”
She said she tries to serve for ace but sometimes the result isn’t what she desires.
“Every time I serve I try to get an ace but sometimes I’m not as lucky as others. It definitely helped me get the win.
“Whenever I get super close to the end, I just want to end it,” she said. “I don’t want to rally, I don’t want to do anything. Just one shot and done.”
The match versus Mt. Zion had implications for seeding for the Apollo Conference tennis tournament this Friday and Saturday.
“I think today we definitely knew we had to win because of seeding,” she said. They (Mt. Zion) are in our conference. I think Casey will be more difficult because they’re a strong team. It will be a good warmup for the Apollo Conference tournament.”
Arend said she has to work on being better focused to make her shots.
“I definitely have to work on getting my shots and serves in.”
She said that not having a state tournament to work towards has not been ideal.
“It’s been frustrating because at practice you work on building yourself up for sectionals and then if you win at sectionals you get to go to state,” she said. “But this year if you win, you’re done. I still have motivation to win because it’s my last year, but it does suck that we don’t get to finish it out at state.”
Williamson said he was happy with the team results.
“We knew as a team that we needed to win this one. We talk about underestimating people,” he said. “I knew that Mt. Zion was going to be solid team. They’re well coached and they know how to place steady, hard-nosed tennis. We needed to step up.
“Even in our couple losses, it was tight. I’m very pleased.”
“Riley is my scrapper. She’s come a long way from her freshman playing number 6,’ he said. “Now she’s playing number one and I knew she’d be here one day. She played a great match. She’s become a more cerebral player. She can figure it out versus just keeping it in play and having that shot stamina.”