June 2, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 67°F


Sophomore standout dominates Liberty League tennis

Sophomore tennis star Taylor Crain was a first-year student phenom last season, racking up a 14–6 singles record, 12–7 doubles record and taking home Liberty League Rookie of the Year. This season, she has taken that dominance to another level and is making sure everyone in the Liberty League knows and fears her name being on the match card.  

Crain is currently touting an 11–2 record from the one position in singles, including an opener in which she won 6–0 against the Rochester Institute of Technology. Crain’s doubles record has also been a point of pride for her this season. Teaming with senior captain Caroline Herz, Crain has been able to achieve an 11–3 record in doubles.  

Crain began to play tennis in second grade and comes from a line of former tennis players including her father and grandfather. Crain said that they both encouraged her to get involved in sports, and tennis was the one that stuck.  

“My dad was trying to expose me to a lot of different sports, so I tried out tennis and I ended up liking it and being pretty good at it,” Crain said. “I kept playing from there and getting competitive around middle school.” 

With a decorated high school career, including being a three time New York State Section II doubles champion, Crain remains humble and went as far as to say she “lost a lot” during her high school years. However, head coach Chris Hayes ’16 said that while recruiting her, he could immediately tell Crain was a special player. 

“The first time I saw Taylor play was at the New York State tournament and she was in the doubles, and initially that was really appealing to me,” Hayes said. “She was a good doubles partner, which is really important at the college level. As a coach, you know who’s a player and you know who’s not and you could immediately tell Taylor was a baller.” 

Originally, Crain intended to compete for another program, but changed course later on to play for the Bombers. Crain said she knew she was going to get solid competition in the Liberty League and that she had a good feeling about joining the team on South Hill.  

“I was going to walk-on D-I to Providence College, but I knew coming [to Ithaca College] that I’d be able to play, and the Liberty League is strong,” Crain said. “I knew I’d get good competition and I had a gut feeling this was the place for me.”  

Crain made an immediate impact in her first season and although it seemed to come out of nowhere, those close to the team knew she was going to blow the league away despite adversity. 

“I knew Taylor was going to be playing one for us, but I was not sure where our expectations were because she was coming off a serious foot injury in the fall,” Hayes said. “She took the whole league by storm, and it opened my eyes like, ‘Wow, she’s special’ when she beat Skidmore [College] in early March [2022]. From that point on, it was like she’s the real deal and when she walks out there, we expect to have that spot, you expect to have one point from Taylor in that match.” 

Crain is extremely competitive on the court, often expressive and emotional when in the heat of the moment. Crain said this attitude on the court not only contributes to her success, but is something she does to get the team energized. 

“I’m pretty loud, pretty fiery, but I try not to have too high highs and low lows, which as a first-year I definitely did,” Crain said. “I pride myself on making the team have good energy. As much as tennis is individual, if we want to win, we have to do it with everyone, and I want my team to do well. I have to remind myself I have to keep good energy for my teammates and that’s what motivates me the most.” 

Herz, Crain’s doubles partner, said it is clear that Crain’s attempt to boost the team’s energy has worked. Herz said that Crain brings a bright personality to the team and that when Crain is feeling good, the rest of the team is too. 

“She’s confident and she’s brought a new personality to our team,” Herz said. “She has one of the strongest personalities I’ve ever met and it’s so fun to be around because she’s always bringing positive energy, and everyone feeds off that. You can definitely tell if she’s not all there, the team’s a bit not there because her energy is so strong. Her personality lights up a room.” 

Despite Crain’s early achievements and positive influence within the team, Herz said Crain is humble and tends to put her head down and work. Herz said that often after a match, Crain will not acknowledge how well she played while everyone else looks on with awe.  

“She knows that she’s really good, but she does get a little humble when people bring it up,” Herz said. “After a big win she’ll say, ‘I did OK’ and we’ll say, ‘No, you just beat the best girl in the league.’ It’s interesting to see how much she’s improved since I met her freshman year. It’s crazy.” 

With so much success in her first two seasons, Hayes said that anything could be possible and Crain has yet to meet her full potential. 

“The ceiling for Taylor is an All-American, no question about it,” Hayes said. “She’s got that determination, that fight and the talent to reach that level … but she’s having an exceptional spring and I think she’s just scratching the surface.”