Rally finding her role with Stone tennis

Apr. 16—Sydney Rally's parents, Ruth and Thomas Rally, wanted to make sure their young daughter was active. After raising three boys, the Rallys knew children needed a release for their energy.

So opportunities were brought Sydney's way. She tried just about every sport, judging which she liked and which she didn't. It came down, in her mind, to just one choice.

"I have been involved with all kinds of sports," said Sydney, a junior at Stone Memorial High School. "I tried to play soccer, but I was kicked in the face with the ball. That stopped things really quick. I played basketball in the sixth grade, but I realized I was too short, and I said 'this isn't fun anymore.' I have even played softball.

"However, tennis has always been a big part of my life, since it was the sport I grew up playing. I went out for the team at Stone last year and I realize I still had some of the skill I needed. So, I kept up with it."

Sydney began playing tennis when she was 6 years of age and living in Corbin, KY. Her family later moved to Crossville, but she didn't continue to play until joining the Lady Panthers last season.

"I really don't know why I started playing tennis because no one else in my family plays," Sydney said. "I think my mom was taking lessons and she decided to get me involved. The pro she was taking lessons from told her that I had some ability. I think it just grew from there.

"One of the things I like about it so much is tennis is a team sport, but it is also an individual sport. I don't have to rely on anyone but myself. In a team sport you have to rely on a pitcher to throw a strike, or a teammate to pass you the ball. In tennis, it is just me and my opponent on the other side of the net. There is no one to blame if I mess up. I like to rely on myself."

That attitude is probably spearheaded by her growing up with older brothers, and doing whatever they were doing. Sydney said she's very competitive and really, in the few times it happens, doesn't like to lose.

"I think I played well last year," Sydney said. "If I had played last year like I am playing now, I think we could have gone farther than we did. as a team.

"Everything about my game last year could have been better. My serve was basically just tapping it in. My groundstrokes were a little consistent. My speed on the court probably kept me in most matches."

But Sydney wasn't satisfied how the 2023 season went for her. So, with the help of Stone coach Dylan Nelson, she went to work.

"I told coach Nelson that I wanted to change my whole game," said Sydney. "So I took lessons over the summer and worked to get better. I changed everything — my grip, my serve. I learned how to be consistent with my groundstrokes, and how to use my body.

"It actually didn't seem like big changes as I was going through it. However, I didn't notice the benefits of the changes until we started playing in preparation for this season."

Sydney said the hard work over last summer is paying off. She is No. 3 on the singles list, right behind Rachel and Carrie Houston at No. 1 and No. 2. She plays doubles with partner Courtney Calhoun.

With the postseason approaching, Sydney said she thinks the Stone girls have the potential to meet or exceed last year's district and regional team title efforts.

"Changing anything about my game right now, I think, would mess things up," said Sydney, who said she wants to have a career in flying. "My attitude is to just play. I struggled when the season began for a little bit, but since I changed my mindset, I have done so much better."