RAVENSWOOD - A future in basketball will have to take a backseat now that Ravenswood's Taylor Youell has opted to change course and pursue tennis at the next level.
The senior recently signed a letter of intent to join the University of Charleston women's tennis program next fall.
"It was a very hard decision giving up basketball after this season," Youell said. "My goal was to play basketball in college. Basketball was my sport, but as I've grown up tennis has become my love."
Youell will carry an impressive resume with her when she arrives on campus to play for UC coach Shari Reed. In her first three seasons with Ravenswood, Youell has posted a 31-5 record in singles and a 33-11 mark in doubles.
Her ventures at the high school state tournament have resulted in a runner-up finish at No. 3 singles and a final four appearance at No. 2 singles. In doubles, Youell has qualified for state on two occasions in the No. 1 bracket.
"It's wonderful to see a young lady who is very talented, coachable and an extremely hard worker be rewarded for her dedication," Ravenswood tennis coach Butch Varney said. "During the summer, she will come to the courts and work for two hours-plus on different parts of her game with one of our local tennis instructors (Dave Crow) then go off and practice basketball."
In terms of a major, Youell hopes one day to become an elementary teacher. For the past two years, she has volunteered at Ravenswood Grade School.
"I love working with little kids and seeing them succeed," Youell said.
The UC program has dominated the upper tier of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in recent history. The Golden Eagles appeared in their fourth straight NCAA Division III Tournament this past April after claiming the league championship. They completed their season with a 15-7 record and a No. 48 national ranking.
"I love the (UC) coach - she inspires the players to be the best they can," said Youell, who is the daughter of Jill and Jim Youell. "I just love the atmosphere and their team. I'm just going to do my best and try to make a mark."
Youell remembers first picking up a racket at the age of 8 and practicing with her older brother, Cody. She didn't start playing on a competitive basis until the seventh grade.
"I learned a lot from coach Varney and (Ravenswood's) assistant coach Jim Frazier, and especially from Dave Crow," she noted.
Youell's greatest asset on the tennis court is her powerful serve. However, she knows that area of her game needs refining in order to compete with collegians.
For the time being, Youell is immersed with her duties as a starter on the Ravenswood girls basketball team. When the spring arrives, she hopes to be at the top of the singles ladder and clinch another berth at the state tournament.
"Winning a state title is definitely a goal," Youell said. "I want to at least get all-state."