TERRE HAUTE —
Most college athletes progress along similar paths to get to their final destinations athletically, but Terre Haute South grad Taylor Bullock’s route to the Eckerd College women’s tennis team was a little different than most.
After playing No. 2 singles for the Braves for her first three years of high school competition, twice helping South to fourth-place state finals finishes and winning the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference singles title, Bullock did not play her senior year at South and spent time working on her game.
The formula paid off, as Bullock has emerged as one of the top players for Eckerd as a freshman and picked up her team-leading fourth win of the spring season on Thursday with a 6-2, 6-1, decision over Christine Kuester of Otterbein at No. 5 singles.
Bullock also rolled to a doubles victory on Thursday with her partner Stephanie Jenks in an 8-2 triumph against Otterbein's Cassie Brungarth and Angela Simmons.
“I graduated early and decided to get a job and work on my game,” said Bullock, whose sister Hunter played one season for IUPUI. “I always knew I wanted to go to a school by a beach and still play tennis.”
She traveled to California and looked at Hope International and loved it, but decided that California was too far from home. Bullock had a friend with a condo in St. Petersburg, and became connected with Eckerd that way.
“I came in contact with the coach and she watched my video and I met with her last March,” Bullock said. “I fell in love with the campus and the tennis program. She told me she would love to have me on the team.”
Eckerd is a Division II school that plays in the Sunshine State Conference.
“We are in the toughest conference in Florida, so we have so many tough matches,” Bullock said. “Our team’s starting lineup is all freshmen so it is a building and learning year.
“In college tennis, you have to learn to be more patient during a point and not try to slam every ball or hit a winner,” she added. “You have to think more than high school tennis about where to hit a ball or if it’s windy which way is the wind going. In college you have to be more committed to tennis and manage your time more wisely.”
Eckerd Coach Erin Koenig is currently on maternity leave, but is thankful for the unexpected gift she received when Bullock showed up on her door.
“There are so many things I like about Taylor,” Koenig said. “She is very coachable and easy to work with. She is very much a team player and she has a great work ethic.”
Koenig feels that Bullock’s attitude and work habits will serve her as her career evolves.
“Her game is very simple, and she knows her limitations and her strengths,” Koenig said. “The thing I like most about her game would be her ability to listen to coaching and implement what I say and make changes.
“I have missed many matches this spring, but I did have the fall season with her,” Koenig continued. “She has done a great job in both singles and doubles, but still has room for improvement and I think she is willing to continue to work and get better.”
Bullock is majoring in communications and plans to minor in film or business. After graduation, she hopes to continue to live in Florida and work in the entertainment field.
Until then, she is enjoying her life in the great weather of Florida and knows she has a lot of tennis matches yet to play.
Koenig feels Bullock is only beginning to show her potential.
“Taylor needs to continue to play an aggressive game,” she said. “She needs to keep working on falling her good balls in to the net and continue working on her serves.
“I think with her work ethic and strong competitive desire I think her game will improve every day and I see her being very successful as the years go on.”
• Modesitt honored — For the third consecutive week, the IUPUI men’s tennis team has had a player capture the Summit League Men’s Tennis Player of the Week award as West Vigo graduate Joel Modesitt took home the honor for the week of March 5-9.
This is the first Player of the Week award for Modesitt this season, and he joins teammates Deon Shafer and Ivan Mojsejev as Jags who have won the award this season.
Modesitt went 2-1 in singles and 2-1 in doubles play last weekend, going a perfect 2-0 in both singles and doubles action in conference wins against Oral Roberts and UMKC.
In singles action, Modesitt played at the No. 5 spot and cruised to straight-set wins over ORU’s Matthew Prevost and UMKC’s Max Helgeson. In doubles, he teamed up with Nick Volz at the No. 2 spot to down UMKC’s tandem of Heckler and Edwards, 8-3.
The 4-3 win over UMKC helped the Jaguars avenge a loss to the Kangaroos in the Summit League Championship match a season ago.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.