KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — In our digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Willa Rogers, a senior girls tennis player at Dobyns-Bennett High School.
Willa Rogers fits right in with Dobyns-Bennett tennis.
“It puts a lot of pressure on you but I like the feeling of pressure and learning how to handle the pressure and deal with it,” Rogers said.
Rogers made the state tournament her freshman year as a team and in the doubles bracket.
“It was a lot of nerves on the finals day for doubles because I realized how much was riding on the match but it was really exciting to be there and just making it to state is a really exciting experience,” Rogers said.
They came up short in both competitions so this year she’s been locked in to getting back.
“Crazy things can happen in tennis and people get nervous so I didn’t want to be too sure of anything but after I won region and saw the draw for state and then thought there was a possibility I could win it,” Rogers said.
She won her three state matches to take the large school singles title, a feat she watched her older sister Josie attempt.
“Really exciting I watched my sister play in the state finals her senior year I knew how badly she wanted that so ever since my freshman year I’ve been really hoping for a state championship so it’s crazy that it was on my last chance,” Rogers said.
“It was amazing so great to see her joy and to see what she had been working on not only for four years but her entire life just to have that final moment of high school tennis I can’t think of a better way to end out her tennis career,” Dobyns-Bennett tennis coach Kaelin Toney said.
Now Willa is signed to play tennis this upcoming year at Liberty University, a school her older sister Ruthie attended.
“One of my sisters goes to Liberty she just graduated this May so for the past four years I’ve gone to visit her and loved the campus and knew in the back of my mind that that was my first choice,” Rogers said.
Ruthie also played tennis when she was at D-B and these three sisters aren’t the only Rogers to swing a racket pretty well; they had to extend it to cousins.
“One of my cousins Ben Rogers he also played tennis at DB and he played at UT he’s my oldest cousin and he kinda set the pathway for the rest of us and we all just kinda followed his footsteps,” Rogers said.
That’s a lot of Rogers coming through the program but head tennis coach Reedy Toney noticed something unique about Willa and her older sister Josie.
“They looked alive manerisms were alike their good stuff on court was alike and their good stuff on the classrom was alike so good patterns from both that’s what I remember when they were both running around,” Reedy Toney said.
“She was a huge role model I watched how she played and what her strengths were but also how she carried herself out on the court and how she had really great sportsmanship and she definitely taught me that it’s more important to make friends and have a good time growing up playing tennis than the actual win,” Rogers said.
Willa continued to look up to her as she went on to the next level and she can’t wait for her own college experience.
“She loved it she played at The Naval Academy so it was definitely a little bit of a different experience than Liberty will be she really loved it though and she loved her teammates one thing was that they were all American and she knew a lot of them already from junior tournaments but my team at Liberty is half American half foreign so I definitely think it will be cool to have that cultural diversity on the team,” Rogers said.
While it’s sad to have the Rogers run come to an end, Willa still has much more tennis in her as she heads to Liberty next month for her freshman year.
“Yeah I’m really excited I’m ready now I was a little sad towards the end of the school year but now I’m excited,” Rogers said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.