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Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2006

South seventh-grader gets into the game

October 4, 2006

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Late in the championship match, her opponent called a serve out, and Taylor Eubanks didn't like it. She paused, glanced to the side, and waited for what she knew was coming.

"Shake it off! Let's go!" Cynthia Eubanks hollered to her daughter, a tennis player at South Junior High.

That's what they do in the Eubanks family. From the 83-year-old grandfather clear down to Taylor, they play tennis. And they support each other every step of the way.

"I'm just glad my parents are so supportive," Taylor said.

She did shake it off, capping an undefeated season by fighting her way to a 7-5 win and taking first place over the same final opponent for the second time in as many weeks.

Last week it was the Washburn Rural tournament; this week, the Lawrence junior high championship tournament against all the hometown squads, Washburn, and even a team from Baldwin High that included sophomores.

There is one small detail: Taylor is only 12. She's a seventh-grader in her first year of junior high tennis.

Granted, she may be pretty typical when it comes to her outgoing and talkative personality, but when it comes to tennis, she isn't exactly the average preteen.

She picked up a racket for the first time at around age 6, while her older sister, Sydney Lartigue, played competitively.

Soon, however she put the racket back down, her mom said.

"It bored her," Cynthia said. "She wanted to play soccer and basketball."

Taylor was also involved in girl scouts and Kansas junior pageants.

When her sister got even deeper into tennis and began traveling with the United States Tennis Association, Cynthia said her younger daughter began dropping her other activities one-by-one.

Though she is still involved with Girl Scouts and sings in the Lawrence Children's Choir, tennis now occupies the majority of Taylor's time.

Not only did she spend her fall on the courts as a South Cougar, but she also traveled on the USTA circuit. Last year, she was the 16th-ranked 12-year-old in the Missouri Valley region.

In Lawrence, Taylor and her family play World Team Tennis. Taylor has been on two teams made up mostly of adults, and both teams took first place.

Taylor said she gets both extra practice and a good time out of the WTT play.

"The adults always make fun of me, just joking, though," she said.

The Eubanks family was also one of the first members of First Serve, a tennis complex with indoor courts at 5200 Clinton Parkway. The complex has become something of a pet project for them.

Cynthia and First Serve's director Stuart Waters, were milling around at last week's tournament, passing out flyers to spread the word.

"This is allowing us to have a tennis community in Lawrence again," Cynthia said, noting that her family used to travel to Kansas City three times a week for league play.

First Serve provides lessons, leagues and summer camps. for all ages and Cynthia said there is no better time to start the game.

"This is a wonderful sport," she said. "It's good for parents to encourage their daughters to play this game because scholarships are plentiful."

Taylor may be 12, but college is already crossing her mind, because that's where her older sister is now.

"That's my goal, work up to beat my sister," Taylor said.

Her mother said that goal goes further than just tennis, though.

"To keep up with school, she's going in early and staying late," Cynthia said. "Her goal is to beat her sister in everything she did."

She is on her way.

When the championship point in the Lawrence tournament sailed long over her head, she came to the net pumping her fist as her teammates cheered on the other side of the fence.

Once she got off the court and received her medal, there was no doubt where she was heading next: straight into her mom's arms for a congratulatory hug.

Though Cynthia said her daughter did not get intimidated easily, Taylor said things were a little different on that day.

"At the beginning of today I was really nervous," Taylor said. "When I got here, it's corny, but it's just where I should be."

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