Taylor Culbertson is still a young player, which is easy to forget considering what she did as a freshman. The Tecumseh High School tennis player went 22-3 last season and earned the News-Sun All-Area Player of the Year award.
Now she’s a sophomore and has another year of experience behind her.
“As soon as the season ended last year, she started playing in some tournaments and focused on her game, hoping to become a more mature player and not so reckless,” said Jennifer Culbertson, her mom and Tecumseh’s coach. “Hopefully, she’s advanced. When we watch her now, compared to how she was playing in October, I’ve seen a lot improvement.”
Culbertson won a sectional championship last season, but lost in the second round of the district tournament, falling one win short of qualifying for state. Her only two other losses were to Tippecanoe’s star player, Sierra Nellessen. She went 23-1 last season and will be a senior this season.
Culbertson has prepared herself for Nellessen and her other top competitors with a lot of hard work in the offseason. She attended a tennis camp in Hilton Head, S.C., and played in a tournament at Purdue University.
Closer to home, she continues to train at Springfield Country Club and sometimes travels to Troy, often playing against boys her age.
“She does work hard,” Jennifer said. “She does weightlifting, speed training. She has really worked on her physical ability as well as her tennis.”
Here’s a quick glance at some of the other top teams and players in the area:
• Kenton Ridge: The Cougars lost four players to graduation, and Ashley Wallace, who took tennis lessons for 10 months since the end of last season, moves from No. 2 doubles to No. 1 singles. The other returning varsity players are Emily Bonar, Franziska Pippig and Carlie Castiaux, two of whom will play singles.
• Northeastern: Freshman Kaleigh Cummins and senior Karley Stites are competing for the No. 1 singles position. Stites played No. 2 doubles last season with Justine Whitley. Whitley will play No. 3 singles.
The Jets set a school record for wins last season with a 14-1 record.
• Shawnee: The Braves return five returning letterwinners, including No. 1 singles player Kenzie Detrick, the No. 1 doubles team of Cassie Beam and Megan Oxner and the No. 2 team of Brittney Dunn and Elle Peterson.
• Springfield: Sophomore Nicole Pavlatos, a Division I district qualifier, jumps from No. 3 to No. 1 singles.