Athlete of the week: Ledford's Taylor Freeman
Tue. October 02, 2012 at 12:18 a.m. | By Jason Queen
Ledford's Taylor Freeman is The Dispatch Athlete of the Week. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)
WALLBURG | Until this season, Ledford tennis coach Randy Grimes had not started a freshman at No. 1 singles in his nearly two decades at the helm.
Taylor Freeman is not your average freshman.
The powerful 6-foot-1 sensation is leading the Panthers on another memorable run at the nets, showing no signs of youth along the way. She’s 16-0 in singles, helping guide Ledford to an 8-0 record in the Mid-Piedmont Conference and perfect 17-0 mark overall. Most of those have been 9-0 wipeouts, showing the Panthers’ talent up and down the lineup. The Panthers romped past Northeast Guilford 9-0 last Monday, then beat Southwestern Randolph and Asheboro 8-1 Wednesday and Thursday.
Despite her age, competitive tennis is old hat for Freeman. “I started playing when I was in kindergarten,” she explained. “And I started playing tournaments two or three years ago.
“I played softball, basketball and soccer.”
Understandable, at 6-1, that Freeman would be a coveted asset on the hardwood. But the hardcourts have taken precedent. Does she play basketball any more, most wonder. “Uhh, kind of,” she said. “I played basketball for two years in middle school, but I don’t really like it that much.”
Without question, she made her mark on the tennis court, rather than the basketball court. Grimes, who has coached Freeman’s older brother, Thomas, at Ledford for three years, watched Freeman from afar during her middle school years at Westchester Country Day School. But she decided she wanted to go to high school at Ledford, and that was just fine with Grimes — who has coached more than his fair share of top-notch talent in Wallburg.
“We had some summer workouts, and I had seen her play in some USTA tournaments,” Grimes said. “So I already knew she could keep the ball in play.
“I just wanted her to get used to the other girls, and hit with her teammates. And, of course, it didn’t take but a couple of sessions to know that she was gonna do great in high school tennis.”
Has she ever. Freeman has displayed a powerful service game, strong shots from the baseline and an obvious propensity to play well at the net. She gets plenty of practice with her brother, who played No. 2 singles for a very successful Ledford boys’ team last season. Who’s better, right now? “Probably him,” Taylor said with a smile. “He has more power, and he’s stronger than me.
“But it makes you better if you play people better than you.”
So far, Freeman and the Panthers haven’t run into anybody any better. If they do, come state playoff time, Grimes has no reluctance about running a freshman out there against an opponent’s best player. “We know Taylor’s always gonna give it everything she’s got,” he said. “Sometimes ignorance is bliss. She’s not been under any high school pressure, so it’s hard to be afraid of something if you don’t know what you’re afraid of.”
Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.