LSU junior Taylor Bridges welcomed the news with open arms that she was named the 2019-20 Player of the Year on the Louisiana Sportswriters Association’s All-Louisiana women’s tennis team.
She was also mindful of the work it took to reach that juncture in a career that began at North Carolina State where at times the Mesa, Ariz. native didn’t crack the Wolfpack starting lineup.
“I’m really happy about it,” Bridges said of her honor, a year after being selected to the LSWA’s All-Louisiana second team as a sophomore. “It’s nice to see the work that I’ve put in pay off. I’m still hungry, though, and have things that I need to work on. At N.C. State, I didn’t even make the lineup and sat on the bench. There’s a lot more that I want to accomplish. I’m definitely excited about the future and want to keep improving every day.”
Bridges, 21-11 playing at the No. 3 singles position for LSU as a sophomore, moved up in the Tigers lineup to the No. 1 singles spot this past season as a junior. She was 16-6 and ranked No. 36 nationally when the team’s season was cancelled March 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Taylor’s one of our hardest workers,” LSU co-head women’s tennis coach Michael Sell. “Even playing No. 3 (singles) last year, we always felt we had a couple of No. 1s. She’s kind of like our silent assassin. The best thing is that she competes. She really doesn’t care who’s on the other side of the net. She will bring her all and play her aggressive style of tennis. You know what you’re going to get with Taylor.”
Taylor, a five-star recruit and top-rated player in Arizona, enjoyed a successful freshman year at N.C. State with a 25-12 overall record including an 18-8 mark in dual match competition.
She opted to transfer to LSU and made an immediate impact in her first season with the Tigers, winning her first 11 of 12 dual matches and finishing with a team-high 16 wins in the spring. She was also part of 22 doubles wins, teaming with three different partners, and was ranked as high as No. 30 with Paris Corley.
Part of Bridges’ record this season included a 9-3 showing in fall tournament play, including winning the singles championship in the ITA Southern Regional Oct. 17-22 at LSU. After working her way through five rounds of the main draw, Bridges found a familiar face waiting in the finals where she defeated Corley, 6-3, 6-0.
Bridges went on to a 7-3 record at the No. 1 singles spot for LSU (10-3 overall, 3-1 in SEC) ,which wound up ranked No. 25 when the season prematurely concluded.
The Tigers were scheduled to host Ole Miss when the season was cancelled with a total of eight matches to play.
“It would have been great to see how she would have done because as the season went along, she got better and better and some more accolades could have come from that,” Sell said of Bridges. “She’s certainly a lot better player than she was last year, and I know she’s willing to work in this off-season to have an even better season next year.”
Bridges, who was 3-3 against ranked opponents, said two of the season’s highwater marks took place over the course of a one-week span when LSU won at both No. 20 Vanderbilt (4-3) and Florida (4-2).
It was her 6-4, 6-2 win over McCartney Kessler that helped the Tigers clinch their second-ever win over the Gators and first since 2009.
Bridges was also a combined 8-3 in doubles play, going 5-3 with Corley and 3-0 with Anna Loughlan.
“I just tried to show up and work as hard as I can every day and the results will work themselves out,” said Bridges, who was a combined 8-3 in doubles play, going 5-3 with Corley and 3-0 with Anna Loughlan. “I try to give 100 percent effort. Playing No. 1 this year was a lot different. I felt more pressure, but I wanted to do well and be a leader for the team. . .kind of set the tone.
“Those wins (Feb. 28 at Vanderbilt, March 6 at Florida) were huge for us. We had really good momentum and I think we were all in shock that our season ended the way it did. We were getting ready for Ole Miss and then Mississippi State (March 15), so it was sad when it ended. We were doing well. I know all of the girls were bummed. I was really looking forward to the rest of the season.”