Tartan Tully is tops

Stuart squash freshman unbeaten at No. 1

By: Bob Nuse
   When Taylor Tully first started to play competitive squash, wins were not easy to come by.
   "When I first started playing it was pretty tough," said the Princeton resident, who is a freshman at Stuart Country Day School. "I did not do very well at all the first couple of matches. Then I started playing four times a week and training. I started to pick it up because I was determined to start winning.
   "Now I play five or six times a week. I played four times a week with school and two with the Princeton Juniors. And then I’ll play tournaments sometimes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So I’m pretty much playing every day."
   Not only is Tully playing more often, but she is playing very well. She is currently ranked No. 29 in the nation in the under-15 age group, with hopes of moving that ranking into the top 25 with a strong performance in the New Jersey state championships later this month.
   "I’m doing pretty well this year," said Tully, who finished second at the state championships last year. "Right now the season is winding down, there is only one tournament left. I’m hoping to improve my national ranking. I’m No. 29 now and I’d like to get into the top 25."
   Tully, who will turn 15 years old later this month, only began playing squash three years ago. And it was just two years ago that she began to play the sport competitively. Her rise up the national rankings has been a quick one.
   "My older sister (Alex) is a senior at Stuart and she started playing for the school team," said Tully, who also plays lacrosse at Stuart. "I would go to watch her and it looked interesting so I decided I would like to play. I started taking lessons and playing with the Princeton Junior Squash program and I really enjoyed it. "I started playing tennis when I was 9 or 10. That’s why I thought I would like squash. I thought it would be a good sport for me."
   Tully’s improved play is no accident. She often manages to get out onto the court to play or practice six times a week, which isn’t easy in a sport where court time is limited. She gets to play four times a week with the team at Stuart, as well as twice a week with the Princeton Junior Squash Program.
   "Playing those extra four days a week really helps," Tully said. "Even if I’m just hitting with myself or my sister, that helps. Once the season is over I’ll play lacrosse and train a little bit. I’m also going to train with weights to keep my strength up. So I don’t play as much as during the season, maybe two or three times a week."
   She has a built-in training partner in her older sister, although Alex doesn’t play quite as much as younger sister Taylor.
   "She only plays in the season," Tully said. "So she doesn’t train with me. When I train I only train with the boys. They hit harder and are more aggressive. It’s fun to play with them."
   Taylor has helped Stuart get off to a 2-2 start this season, winning all of her individual matches at the No. 1 position. Stuart still has two matches left this season and is looking to end with a winning record. After that, Tully will focus on the state tournament and improving on her second-place finish of a year ago.
   "The girl who won last year moved up to the next age group, so hopefully I have a chance to win it this year," Tully said.
   The way she has continued to work hard and improve, that goal doesn’t seem out of reach.