Amanda Riff knows all about what it takes to compete in a team sport. The junior spent the last two seasons as a guard for the girls’ basketball team at Timber Creek Regional High School, while also competing as a doubles player for the school's girls’ tennis team.
Over that time, she has gained valuable lessons in what it means to communicate with her teammates and how to become a leader. She has thrived in the role of team-first player.
As it turn out, she’s also pretty good when left to compete all alone.
Riiff made the move from No. 1 doubles to No. 2 singles this fall and is getting used to life on the court without teammates. Sure, there are other Chargers several feet away from her on adjacent courts, but they are unable to make an impact once the ball is served.
“It’s a whole different game at singles,” said Riiff after her 6-1, 6-0 win against Paul VI Wednesday made her a team-best 3-3 on the year. “You have your partner at doubles, but here you are all alone. You have a lot more footwork to work on, need more quickness and have to have more talent because you are on your own. You don’t have a partner behind your back.”
Riiff said her years playing on the hardwood have paid dividends in terms of being conditioned for the demands a singles tennis player faces. The constant side-to-side motion on a tennis court doesn’t seem so bad after being experienced at running a fast break, then getting back on defense on the basketball court.
“It was easier to get used to it coming from basketball, but there’s definitely a lot more movement (at singles),” Riiff said. “You are constantly on your toes, and you are never stopping. It’s a lot more hard work because you are constantly going up to the net, and going back and forth. It was a little difficult to get used to, but I have gotten it down.”
Timber Creek girls’ tennis coach Jean DeMarco has been pleased with Riiff’s play over these first couple of weeks, saying the junior has a never-give-up attitude in her play regardless of whether she is up a little, or down big.
Commenting on her tenacity, Riiff once again drew a link to her winter sport.
“In basketball, you always have to keep your head up, and it’s the same in tennis,” Riiff said. “You are just by yourself on the court so you have to stay in the game; you don’t want to quit on yourself if you are down a couple of sets. You have to keep your head up and just keep working.”
Although she has adjusted to playing on her own, Riiff’s experiences in a team atmosphere still come in handy on a Timber Creek squad that has just two seniors in its entire program. She does her best to lead not only vocally, but also by example.
“We are a young team with only one senior on varsity, so as a junior in one of the top positions I have to make sure the team is playing hard and not giving up on themselves as young players,” Riiff said. “I keep them motivated and make sure there is no playing around in practice so we stay focused."