Girls Tennis Preview: Oliver Has a Target on Her After Last Season
Fri. February 15, 2013 at 11:00 p.m. | By Rick Brown
GEORGE JENKINS' TAYLOR OLIVER won a county and district title at All Saints' Academy. Oliver transferred to Jenkins this year. (Photo by RICK BROWN | THE LEDGER)
By RICK BROWN
LAKELAND | It seemed like Taylor Oliver came out of nowhere last year to not only claim the Polk County title as a freshman but also the district title to advance to state.
That wasn't bad for a girl who entered last year as All Saints' No. 2 player.
This year, however, despite transferring to George Jenkins, Oliver won't be sneaking up on anyone anytime soon. When asked to name the top returning player in the county, four area coaches all said Oliver's name.
The returning Polk County Player of the Year will have to adjust to new coaching and new teammates in addition to being the big girl on the block.
Oliver said one part of the change is already easy.
"I love the team," Oliver said. "The girls are so nice and coach (Paul Walker) is great. I went to elementary school with some of the girls so it's like coming back and meeting old friends again and (having) great players to play with, so I'm excited."
Walker said he didn't make a big deal out of Oliver coming to Jenkins but he's happy about it.
"Who wouldn't take a Polk County Player of the Year?" he asked. "It would be an amazing addition to any program. We're fortunate to have a good program here and a bunch of dedicated girls. Now you add her to that mix, and in a manner that doesn't disrupt the team, and it's great.
"She's been a good teammate and has been fully accepted here. She really handles her business on the court."
That is going to be important even more this year Walker said because everyone will look at Taylor like a young Mike Tyson and will want to be the Buster Douglas to beat her.
"I told her, you've got a bull's-eye on your chest," Walker said. "Everybody's going to play their best tennis against her. She has to be prepared for that."
Oliver, whose politeness and giddiness off the court hide the determination between the lines, does not shy away from the expectations.
"It doesn't bother me," she said. "I know they're going to come out and try their best and that's what I want. That would bring me good competition too."
Last year, Oliver went 17-2 in No. 1 singles play and advanced to state where she bowed out in the first round.
This year, she would like to go back and have some friends along with her.
"I'm hoping for our team to do the best," Oliver said. "I think we're going to have a great season and hope everybody can go out and do what they can do."
They will take her lead.
[ Rick Brown may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rickbrown91. ]