Springing into tennis

Molly Peffley returns a shot on Monday afternoon.

Photo by Lukas Eggen
Molly Peffley returns a shot on Monday afternoon.

DALLAS — When Dallas girls tennis player Molly Peffley decided to pick up a racket her freshman year, she didn’t have years of experience.

She wasn’t an avid fan of the sport, hadn’t even played casually.

“I didn’t know tennis was even a thing until I got to high school,” Peffley said.

That hasn’t stopped her, now a senior, from establishing herself as one of the Dragons’ top players in a spot to go out her way — by having a blast.

“I would say to never be afraid to try something new,” she said. “And make sure you work at it with everything that you have.”

Peffley was a track and field athlete in middle school, but the sport caused her more stress than enjoyment.

“It gave me a lot of anxiety, and I wasn’t very good at it,” she said. “… There were a lot of nerves and a lot of pressure. I wasn’t having fun with it.”

She decided to turn to tennis.

The main obstacle? She had never even picked up a racket.

With a large number of girls participating and only a few coaches to help both junior varsity and varsity, there were few chances for coaches to give the girls a lot of individualized focus on JV.

Peffley was left to pick up a large portion of the sport on her own — learning everything from a forehand swinging motion to working on her toss for a serve.

Practice time with her teammates became the only chances she had to learn proper technique and rules — not an easy task for a beginner.

“Someone would hit me a ball, and I would try and hit it back,” she said. “I’d look at where it landed and think, what can I do to fix it? A lot of my technique was self-taught.”

The results were mixed, at best.

“It was hard learning how to control the ball so it didn’t lob over every time,” Peffley said.

That changed when coach Julie Hertel first joined the Dragons coaching staff.

“She’s helped me with my form,” Peffley said. “I’ve made huge progress since (coach Hertel has) been here.”

Every part of Peffley’s game, from her serve to her backhand, began to improve rapidly, and her shot placement went from a liability to a strength.

“I never realized how much strategy there is,” Peffley said. “I always kind of played where all I wanted to do was hit it over the net. Hertel came in and showed me strategies like when to approach the net. I would have never learned those things without her. Now, I can slow things down, see where my opponent’s weaknesses are and try and take advantage of them.”

To see Peffley play this spring would be to see an experienced player moving quickly around the court — without a hint that the sport was entirely new to her just a few years ago.

“Tennis has taught me how to be independent while still being on a team,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be as mentally strong if I never played tennis. You have to be able to catch yourself when you’re starting to get frustrated and be able to turn yourself around.”

Peffley isn’t setting any expectations for her final season as a Dragon. Instead, she’s focused on one thing – making tennis fun for herself and her teammates.

“I want to have a lot of fun and enjoy my last season,” she said. “I want to do the best I can do. I’m not too picky where I’m seeded as long as I do the best I can in the place that I’m put.”


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