Wednesday, January 17News That Matters

Township sophomore tennis star Taylor Kopan toughened up by her teammates

The butterflies in Taylor Kopan’s stomach were working overtime when it came time to take the court for her first high school tennis practice.

Sure, she had been swinging a tennis racket since she was 4, and she had played in some local United States Tennis Association 12U and 14U tournaments.

But this was different.

This was the high school tennis team and, being Manheim Township, a program traditionally deep in talent.

The questions buzzed around her head as she stepped onto the court that day.

Where would she fit in?

What is the format for high school tournaments?

Gradually, however, she found the answers to all of her concerns.

Now, she’s a sophomore and knows the ins and outs of high school tennis like a veteran.

As the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s season hits the home stretch, Kopan will look to defend her league Flight One Class 3A title and then move on to districts and possibly states.

She will also be looking to help the Blue Streaks defend their L-L team championship, starting Monday.

In these pursuits, Kopan will certainly bring the experience she gained last season into her remaining matches this season.

This time, though, she won’t have as many butterflies.

When you have matches with experienced players like Kate Moore, Julia Darkey and Emily Garvin — Kopan’s Township teammates — even before you play against opponents from another school, it’s bound to make you a better player.

“They are all so good,” Kopan said. “Playing them can really get to you and that’s when the nerves come back. As last season went on, I definitely gained more confidence.”

Kopan started last season playing No. 2 but moved up to No. 1 after the L-L League singles tournament, where she had to defeat Moore, Darkey and Hempfield’s Amanda Hagino in that draw.

She made it to the finals of the District Three Class 3A tournament, won a match at states and helped the Blue Streaks to the District Three Class 3A team tournament semifinals.

This season, she is 13-1, having dropped a three-set match with Hempfield’s Hagino in mid-September. Kopan, who defeated Hagino twice last season, won the second set to tie the match. Hagino then came back to win the third set, 11-9.

“Amanda was very consistent (in that third set) and each point went over 30 shots,” Kopan said. “To go through that, you had to dig deeper. As the match goes on and you get into that third set, it becomes more difficult to hang with a player like Amanda.”

Knowing what he knows about Kopan, Township coach Doug Pennington knew she would bounce back after the loss.

“Taylor is very quick,” Pennington said. “She moves to the ball before it comes back over the net at her. That gives her an advantage. The other thing is she has a lot of tools and can adjust her game to what she needs to do. She doesn’t have a one-style game. She has several styles and a lot of different things she can do.”

Along with those skills comes determination, which she acquired when she stood not much higher than the net.

“Tennis gives you a feeling of accomplishment,” she said. “At 4 years old, you can’t do much, but if you hit a certain shot right and your mom congratulates you, it feels good.”

Kopan plays lacrosse, too, and whether she pursues that sport or tennis in college is still to be determined. While she likes lacrosse, she likes tennis for the individuality of the game.

“Losing is difficult and that can be hard on you,” she said. “But if you win, you’ve done it all by yourself (in singles) and it’s a really nice feeling to know that you did it.”

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