Carrying a team-first reputation, Warriors' tennis captain Taylor Riggio-McGrath has certainly received the chance to strengthen her selfless spirit in a big way.
After the senior claimed a Shoreline Conference doubles crown and went undefeated alongside Carly Melillo last spring, Taylor was asked to step into the singles spotlight this campaign at the No. 2 spot. While flying solo for the first time since her freshman year, Taylor took the task without any hesitation, earning herself a 7-4 record thus far and positioning herself for states.
"I was excited at the chance because both singles and doubles are challenging," says Taylor, who was a 2012 First Team All-Shoreline player. "For singles, you have to be more patient and controlled in your game, but doubles entails more fast-paced action. I enjoy both sides and the move wasn't surprising. I told the coaches to put me wherever they needed me."
Further showcasing her club-first mentality, Taylor says she had the chance to continue with doubles, yet she declined because she didn't want to disrupt the solid camaraderie of tight-knit Valley.
"I really enjoy the team atmosphere with tennis, especially here," says Taylor, who additionally plays soccer for the Warriors. "It's a solo sport, but we win and lose on this team as a family and we have really bonded in that way over the years. All the doubles teams have worked hard together so I didn't want to break up a team by staying in doubles."
Preparing herself for a season without someone at her side, the mid-distance indoor track runner worked her legs to gear up for sprints along the baseline while also assessing another component to a competitor's success: her mental game.
"I am a kid who keeps it very mental when competing," says Taylor, an All-Shoreline Scholar Athlete a year ago. "A lot of success in tennis is mental, which helps to keep me in a match. You can't beat yourself up after a bad point. Singles and doubles are totally different. In doubles, I would look at positioning of the opponent, but for singles, I just try to hit one more ball to move them around. Soccer and track have helped my legs as there is a lot of footwork in tennis."
Warriors' girls' tennis Coach Gary Ribchinsky called upon Taylor to make the lineup change. Knowing Taylor can serve up success on the court, he is equally conscious of her leadership.
"Taylor is a great athlete whom the kids adore," says Ribchinsky on the four-year varsity starter. "She has a certain calmness about her, but she is a fierce competitor. Every coach needs a player like Taylor. She is a fast runner and a MVP-caliber athlete."
In agreement with her coach, the captain expresses that, similar to her new role on the court, being a leader gives her a chance to embark on bigger tasks as well.
"I am there for the younger players 100 percent and want them to know that they can talk to me about anything," says Taylor, who will attend Central Connecticut State University to study nursing. "Being a captain is amazing because it gives me new challenges. Not only do I have to compete for the team, yet I also have to get everyone pumped and on the same page."
Recalling the wild Shoreline doubles crown win of a season ago, Taylor remembers how persistence paid off in grueling three-set victories against familiar foes. Looking towards her trip back to the postseason alone this campaign, Taylor tackles it like an open book in facing fresh adversaries.
"Shorelines were crazy because we played teams that we lost to as a team during the regular season," says Taylor, who thanks mother Sally. "We barely got by Westbrook in the first match and then the final versus Old Lyme was so evenly matched and exhausting. Playing in states for singles will be different, but exciting. You never know what to expect. It's all about how the cards turn up that day."