(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA — Montana women’s tennis coach Steve Ascher has completed his 2019 recruiting class with the addition of Abby Taylor, a rising star in the English ranks out of the village of Oxted, just south of London.
Taylor has been playing tennis since the age of seven and has risen to prominence in the UK, finishing third in the British National Schools finals, winning the Suffolk County U-19 doubles, and winning the Eaton doubles event as well.
But her athletic prowess doesn’t stop on the tennis court. She’s also the captain of her netball team and a middle-distance runner for the track team.
All this success at the national level may seem surprising, but not when you realize that Taylor will bring her talents to Montana as a blue blood of English tennis, whose coach is one of the top players in UK history, and also happens to be her mother.
Abby Taylor joins the Grizzlies as the daughter of Sally Taylor, a former professional who played in the main singles draw at Wimbledon in the early ’80s, represented Great Britain in the US and French Opens, and achieved a world ranking of 144 at the height of her career.
You could say Abby Taylor was born to play college tennis.
“She’s strong, and she’s a good athlete. She ran the 800 in track as well, so I like someone who has speed, endurance, and likes to suffer a little bit,” said Ascher. “Her mom played on the professional tour as well, so she has that background. I like the package she brings.”
Montana has had its share of players with extensive family tennis backgrounds, and there is something about the experience that brings out the best in a player at the college level. Example: Julia Ronney, the Grizzly No. 1 who earned first-team All-Big Sky honors following a sophomore season where she went 7-1 in Big Sky play.
“You see it with Julia. Her mom played in college and professionally, and her dad played in college. Just having someone that has that elite-level background and knows what you need to do to get there is huge,” said Ascher. “It’s just work, but unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to understand.”
Armed with a background deeper and more varied than most, Ascher expects Taylor to excel at the college level and will need her to do so right away if the Grizzlies are to improve on last year’s dismal three-win season.
“That’s the key. As a freshman, you have to come in and contribute. Put points on the board. You can contribute in many different ways in terms of your effort, attitude, and what you bring to the team off the court, but you’ve got to get after it,” said Ascher.
Expectations may be high, but for Taylor, the opportunity to travel the world and pursue an education (preferably in business) while playing high-level tennis is something she’s willing to work for.
“Steve made is so nice and welcoming for me to go through the whole process because it was completely new for me,” said Taylor.
“But he kept me in contact all the time and was updating me on all the matches over the last couple months, and I just can’t wait, it sounds so exciting.”