On the tennis court, nothing ever fazes Olivia Ray. |
The Moline High School junior has a Zen quality to her on-court presence that suits a game rooted in balance and discipline.
"I'm more of a leader by example," Ray said. " I don't get mad or frustrated on the tennis courts because I don't want people to see that. If they do, teammates will start getting down, so I try to keep positive."
Competing at the New Trier Invitational against some of Illinois' top players and teams, this week's Metro Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus dropped her opening match, but she didn't lose her cool.
A subtle approach paid big dividends as she won her final three matches 6-0, 6-0. That's 36 games won consecutively, even though some games were close, going to deuce.
"It's an accomplishment," Ray said. "But I want to go after every single match like that. If the match gets closer, I put way more pressure on myself. I get nervous that I'm going to get down, so I try to win every single game that I can and go for every single point."
Winning is familiar territory for Ray.
Last season, she won 29 matches -- including a stretch of 12 in a row against a combination of local talent and tough Chicagoland players.
Moline coach Bill Allee believes the 29 wins may be a school record for wins for the girls tennis program, considering the elite caliber of Chicago teams the Maroons play during the regular season.
Making her weekend even more impressive is the fact that Ray has jumped from No. 2 singles action into the top spot, taking over for Maroons' captain Maggie Helms who is now at Luther College.
"I always looked up to her," Ray said of Helms. "Taking over her spot has been tough, but I know she has provided a good example, so I feel like I already know what to do."
Ray had been a consistent player, but worked in the offseason to become more aggressive. That competitiveness extends off the court as she aims to be the best at anything she does. She and her sister, Alyssa, are at the top of the MHS junior class academically.
"I'm very competitive at everything that I do," Ray said, "And my parents have shown me that hard work has its rewards."
And while Ray's emotions may not show on the court -- her hard work is certainly apparent.
Metro Pacesetter: Olivia Ray
Forehand or backhand: Forehand
Baseline or net: Baseline
Favorite school subject: AP Chemistry
Favorite musician: Drake
Favorite book: The Hunger Games
Favorite movie: Beauty and the Beast
Dream job: Going into medicine
Parents: Steve and Stephanie Ray, Moline
In the running
pencer Haynie, United Township: Picked off four passes, to rank among the single-game leaders in Illinois, and help the football Panthers pull out a 21-20 last-second thriller over Dixon.
Kevin Wolak, Geneseo: Tied for third place individually with a 72 as the Maple Leafs came up just a stroke shy of winning their own 15-team boys' golf invite. The Leafs beat such local powerhouses as Moline and Bettendorf.
Tom Noe, Alleman: Playing in his first game in nearly a year, the senior showed no ill effects from a season-ending knee injury as a junior, rushing 13 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns to lead the football Pioneers to a 35-0 victory.