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Derby’s Tennis Doubles – Team Spotlight – Presented by Keto On With Kerri

By: Joanna Chadwick

This tennis season, the Derby High girls qualified both of their doubles teams for the Class 6A tournament: Kyler Demel/Emerson Godwin and Ayanna Wright/Isabella Nikolova. 

For Wright and Nikolova, the chemistry is unmatched. The senior-junior duo have been called everything from “twins” to “two peas in a pod” with how alike they are on and off the court. 

“I remember the first time we ever played together, which was my sophomore year, and we instantly clicked,” Wright said. “I wouldn’t want to play with anybody else. Not only is she an amazing player, but she always knew what to say to get me out of a slump. It’s going to be really hard to leave her next year.” 

Nikolova feels the same towards Wright. 

“Ayanna and I met around middle school and have shared a bond over our sport ever since,” Nikolova said. “One of our biggest strengths has to be our ability to bring that bond onto the court and bring each other up from mistakes. I am confident in saying that I would have never been able to make it through a game mentally if it weren’t for her. 

“Along with that, Ayanna has made this sport the most enjoyable activity I have ever done. It is bittersweet to reminisce about the laughs we had off and on the court, as the game will be difficult to play without her next year.” 

As her senior year slithered away slowly for Wright, she made sure to give it her all. 

“In the past years, I have had a really hard time with my self-confidence as a tennis player, and it really affected how I played,” Wright said. “I was tired of feeling that way, so I decided to start telling myself that I am here to give it my all and I need to enjoy my last year.” 

Both Wright and Nikolova gave credit to how much the new staff of first-year head coach Kristen Reiger and assistant coach Kristin Kohr for helping the tennis players reach their true ability this year. 

“Having played many different sports throughout my life, I have never learned nor enjoyed more in a season with Coach Regier and Kohr,” Nikolova said. “They have never hesitated to stay after practice and help us work on skills and hit with us or help us get out of our heads in the middle of the match. They recognize the physical aspect of this sport but also recognize the mental side and how it can affect your performance, a lesson that years of coaching in all kinds of sports have never addressed. They will always have an effect on me as both a tennis player and an individual.” 

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