Warner a budding tennis star at Ringgold
When you think of some of the top athletes to come out of Ringgold, then several sports come to mind.
Sports such as football, basketball, baseball and soccer have produced some quality players who went on to have solid college careers and even, in the case of former Rams Joe Montana, Scott Zolak and Ulice Payne, beyond.
Meet Olivia Warner.
Her name may not ring a bell now and her sport - girls' tennis - certainly doesn't grab headlines. However, that all may change.
Warner is a freshman tennis player at Ringgold and she comes into the program with more fanfare than Montana did when he began his multi-sport career at the school.
“She is really the first real tennis player I have had,” said Ringgold girls' coach Sally Phillips. “She is only going to ninth grade and already has a national ranking. She was ranked No. 1 in her age group in the Allegheny Mountain section in the Middle States last year. She plays in all the local tournaments and outside the area, too.
“She's really good. She is a blue-chipper for sure.”
Warner, who is 15, was ranked No. 1 among her age group as a 12-year-old and 14-year-old and now she is ranked at the top among the 16-year-olds in the Allegheny Mountain region.
Phillips said that she has only watched Ward practice with the girls' team for a week, but she already sees big days ahead for her budding star.
“I knew her from when she was younger and I knew she was coming up,” Phillips said. “She looks fantastic already. She is my No. 1 player, for sure. There is no question about that.”
Phillips says that Warner takes tennis differently than most kids on the high school level.
“For a lot of girls, tennis is something fun to do, but they also participate in other activities or when the season is over, they put their racquets away,” she said. “For Olivia, this is her life. She plays every day. It's her main interest.”
Phillips says Warner has all the intangibles to be great.
“She takes it very seriously and works hard. She is quick, has good strokes and she anticipates really well,” she said.
Warner said she began playing tennis at an early age because her father, Ken, played the sport.
“He got me into it and at first I didn't like it,” she said. “But the more I played, I started to like it a lot. I play all year round now. My club (Glen Creek Tennis Club in South Park) has indoor and outdoor courts.
“I play in pretty much every tournament I can get my hands on,” Warner added. “I go as far as Erie and also played in West Virginia.”
The diminutive Warner, who is 5-2, says she is not intimidated by playing against girls possibly three years older than her.
“At my club, I was often the youngest in the class and I played against the older high school players,” she said. “That doesn't bother me at all. I'm used to it.”
Ringgold's girls' tennis team hasn't done very well in the past, but Phillips says having a player like Warner around will make the whole team better.
“She will have an impact,” Phillips said. “She will be good as our No. 1 and my No. 1 from last year will do better as a No. 2 and so on down the line.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.